How drones have helped EPD more effectively and safely respond
There are many instances where having an eye in the sky can help locate a missing and endangered person or an armed and dangerous suspect on the loose. Having an overhead view can also aid a bomb team or SWAT team more safely enter an area to respond on the public’s behalf or document a crime scene. Many agencies have used helicopters, but these are very expensive and outside the reach of most local police departments. Eugene Police has found that having a Drone Team is an effective, affordable alternative.
At 11:20 a.m. on December 12, Eugene Police deployed the Drone Team to assist in apprehension of a man wanted for a homicide failure to appear warrant and this helped provide an overhead view that made taking him into custody safer. Vincent Arnez Evans, age 35, had a warrant from Fulton County, Georgia, for a ‘Failure to Appear – Homicide.” There was also probable cause to arrest Evans for Menacing APA (abuse prevention act, related to domestic violence), Strangulation APA, and Assault in the Fourth Degree APA in a case involving a 29-year-old Eugene female. Due to the details provided and the presence of a teen inside, EPD Patrol added resources to make the response safer. EPD deployed Crisis Negotiation Team, SWAT, K9, Central Lane 911 Dispatch, Special Investigations Unit, and the Drone Team.
While we can’t attach footage from that case until it is adjudicated, this is a good opportunity to provide other examples of footage from the drone to help illustrate how the tool is used.
Drone Footage Compilation: https://vimeo.com/666153243/4525f53f13
Eugene Police Drone Team debuted its program in April 2018. The types of deployments EPD has had demonstrate the value of the new equipment. The drones are not used for surveillance, but for life-safety issues, covered by policy. The Oregon Revised Statutes have language specifically crafted for law enforcement use of drones which includes crime scene mapping and photography, search and rescue, and exigent circumstances when a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed, as a few examples.
The department has a variety of drones from small drones that can be used to help clear an indoor location prior to officers making entry, to a larger platform capable flying in inclement weather. Several of the drones are equipped with FLIR technology which detects heat.
So far the Drone Team has been utilized to assist ESFD HazMat with a radioactive material, LCSO with a plane crash to ensure no other victims were in a field of tall grass, EPD SWAT with numerous missions providing overwatch to officers on the ground, and interior searches to increase safety prior to SWAT making entry into the location, as well as numerous water rescue missions, and patrol activities.
The EPD Drone Team has conducted more than 190 field deployments in 2021. The program currently runs on a small budget from patrol, with support from the Eugene Police Foundation.