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San Jose Police Apologizes For Secrecy Surrounding Purchase Of Drone

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- The San Jose Police Department has issued an apology for the secretive purchase of a drone earlier this year.

In January, the department brought the $7,000 drone, funded as part of a federal Homeland Security grant.

Police said they wanted to use it to fly over potential bombs, to avoid sending a squad into hazardous situations. The drone was also intended for use in situations that threaten public safety.

Amid criticism of the purchase, the department issued this statement on Tuesday:

In January, 2014, the San Jose Police Department purchased an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) that was funded as part of a federal Homeland Security grant accepted by the San Jose City Council in November 2013. The UAS is a Century Neo 660 radio-controlled hex-rotor (six-rotor) hobbyist-style helicopter that is equipped with a camera.

SJPD intends to use the UAS primarily to access potential explosive devices and avoid exposing police bomb squad personnel to possible hazards. The UAS can be flown over a device to obtain images that would assist the bomb technicians. Another possible use would be for situations that threaten public safety. These could include dangers such as active shooters, hostage taking, or other such tactical situations where lives might be in immediate danger.

SJPD strives to explore new technology that can help our department protect the community more effectively and efficiently. The UAS is an example of this, but it also is one of many projects the SJPD is working on. Other pressing issues facing SJPD, such as patrol staffing, employee retention and recruitment, Community Service Officer program, and Body Worn Camera project, have higher priorities at this time.

In hindsight, SJPD should have done a better job of communicating the purpose and acquisition of the UAS device to our community. The community should have the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions, and express their concerns before we move forward with this project. To this end, we will first develop a community outreach plan before we take steps to deploy the UAS.

Following the completion of the community outreach efforts, the Department will then develop the policy and procedures that will provide an appropriate and practical framework to guide our operation of the UAS. At the same time, we will continue to research legal implications and Federal Aviation Administration requirements for the operation a UAS by SJPD.

We are confident that this technology can improve certain police operational efficiencies and help enhance public and officer safety in specific critical incidents. However, SJPD will not use the UAS until these outreach and procedural steps have been completed and approved.

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