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Could Philadelphia expand its use of drones in law enforcement?

Could Philadelphia use drones for law enforcement?
Could Philadelphia use drones for law enforcement? 00:56

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia leaders and the police department are interested in obtaining more drones for use in law enforcement and crime prevention.

The use of drones in law enforcement was the subject of a Philadelphia City Council hearing on Friday.

Officials say the use of drones will enhance public safety. There are approximately 1,200 police departments across the country that use drones in some capacity, including some in Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State Police.

Law enforcement officials from departments already using drones, including the Chula Vista, California and Brookhaven, Georgia police, spoke at the hearing.

Some councilmembers say drones can be used not only to stop crime, but to prevent it.

"This is just another phase and another potential tool that can be used to help prevent crime, and to assist our law enforcement officers in dealing with any particular incident. But I keep emphasizing the fact that prevention is always our preference," Democratic City Council President Darrell Clarke said.


Councilmembers were given a live demonstration of how the drones work.

In 2018, the city implemented a drone program after working with civil rights attorneys to address privacy concerns, Deputy Commissioner Fran Healy of the Philadelphia Police said at the hearing.

There are four tactical drones in the SWAT unit, Healy said. Another drone is on the way for the Marine Unit and will be used for water searches.

"They've been used primarily for the barricaded situations but also large crowds, large events on the Parkway, for the observation from the aerial view for tactical advantages," Healy said. 

Referring to the presentations from other departments, "I'm kind of jealous, quite frankly of what I saw, and I'm very interested in seeing how we can, in Philadelphia, develop something," Healy added. "We're looking forward to looking into those opportunities."

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