New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira and City Council Public Safety Committee Chair Brian Gomes paid a visit to Fall River on Wednesday for a look-see at the Fall River Police Department’s new drones and body cameras.
Gomes has insisted New Bedford Police could employ drones as a frontline tool to combat illegal ATV and dirt bike use in the city, saying drones are “21st century policing.”
Some have suggested that drones could violate the public’s privacy if misused by the police, but Gomes said it’s “not about hide and seek, this is about providing public safety.”
He said drones “could be helpful in search and rescue operations” and for “security at outdoor events such as ’50s Night, the Portuguese Feast or even the Cape Verdean parade.”
Chief Oliveira agrees. Oliveira told me drones could be “an additional tool” for police, “not so much for crimefighting but for public safety and search and rescue,” he said.
Oliveira acknowledges that there are restrictions on drone use imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration to which police would have to adhere, as any other citizen licensed to pilot a drone would have to follow.
Gomes said one of Fall River’s new drones has a camera and a speaker so that when police locate a missing elderly person or a child, there is communication to comfort the individual until officers can arrive at the scene.
The Fall River Police Department has three drones. The department has also begun a pilot program with several officers equipped with body cameras.
Gomes said he will be “looking for state and federal monies” so that New Bedford can purchase police drones and body cameras as well.
“I am a strong believer that the federal government should have issued a nationwide camera policy after all the disruption in 2020,” he said.
Oliveira is also a fan of body cameras but said the city would have to find the money. He said perhaps American Rescue Plan Act funds received by the city could be used to purchase body cameras.
Gomes said he’s not certain there is any ARPA money left in New Bedford.
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