The arrival of new technology often stirs waves of excitement and concern. This summer, Worcester Police's acquisition of a drone did just that. Since its launch in June, how often has the drone taken to the skies? And what are the underlying sentiments surrounding this decision?
According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the drone has been beckoned by the police five times since its program's inauguration. Interim Police Chief Paul Saucier informed the City Council that the police will provide a quarterly log detailing the “small unmanned aircraft system” utilization.
Dive into Worchester Police Drone Deployments
While the drone saw five requests, it was only airborne three times. The notable instances of its deployment include:
- A 13-hour standoff on July 7 at 51 Colby St. where a suspect barricaded himself. This intense event ended with the arrest of Caleb Boateng, accused of “shooting his mother and brother as well as firing at police officers who responded to the shooting.”
- The 40th annual National Night Out on Aug. 1 at Fuller Family Park on Murray Avenue, where the drone showcased demonstration missions.
- An Aug. 22 mission at 280 Clark St., where the drone was summoned to inspect a forested region in search of a purloined boat/trailer, accompanying the retrieval of a stolen vehicle. Unfortunately, the thick canopy hindered the drone's flight.
Two other calls for the drone's aid saw it grounded. The incidents involved an armed individual after a dispute with his ex-girlfriend and an alleged armed robbery.
Balancing Drone Technology with Civil Liberties
The City Council's decision to green-light the drone wasn't devoid of scrutiny. June's vote came on the heels of three months of fervent debates across nearly a dozen public meetings.
Many councilors struggled to balance technological benefits with potential civil rights implications. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lent its voice to these concerns, though it stopped short of endorsing the police drone's usage.
Former Police Chief Steven Sargent assured the public that the drone wouldn't target unsheltered individuals. Still, some councilors sought more concrete policy language to ensure the technology wouldn't involve matters concerning the homeless.
In the final vote, a $25,000 drone saw support from Mayor Joseph M. Petty and several councilors, while three voted against its purchase.
In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, striking the right balance between advancement and ethical implications remains daunting. The Worcester police drone, funded by leftover state earmark funds, epitomizes this delicate dance.
As we await further updates on the drone's performance and implications, one thing is certain: such debates are crucial to ensure technology serves the community in the best way possible.
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