It shall be the mission of those personnel of the Monterey Park Police Department who are trained in the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), to use this resource to perform aerial data collection for officer safety and tactical purposes while also respecting private property and privacy of the community members of the City of Monterey Park.
The Monterey Park Police Department initiated its drone program in 2021. While developing the program, the Monterey Park Police Department studied the use of drone technology in public safety operations, while also researching best practices, policies, and procedures regarding the use of UAS technology in law enforcement.
The drone program has several sworn police officers trained in the operation of drones and use of UAS technology, and earned required licenses and certifications necessary to operate drones in the performance of their law enforcement duties
- What is a drone or UAS?
UAS is an Unmanned Aerial System and is commonly called a drone. A drone is an aerial device with an onboard computer that is operated remotely – generally by a pilot on the ground – using a handheld controller. Small drones are battery operated, weigh less than 55 pounds, have several rotors like a helicopter, and are equipped with a video camera.
- Where is the video and photos taken by the UAS stored?
All video and photo evidence taken during any UAS mission is stored in the same manner and location as Body Worn Camera (BWC) video and other investigative evidence. MPPD utilizes a private “cloud” service, to store all digital evidence. The service is authorized and certified under both state and federal regulations for the security and protection of confidential information and is available only for official law enforcement purposes. Evidence is stored and saved for a limited time, unless it is categorized as evidence in an actual crime or formal investigation. Then it is stored for a period of time consistent with all other evidence related to that incident/investigation.
- Who has access to the video and photos?
Video and photos collected by UAS are stored for the purposes of conducting police investigation and subsequent prosecutions. Accordingly, videos and photos are generally accessible to police investigators for official use only. Like all police records, video and photos may also be subject to additional release under the same rules and restrictions as BWC video and other items of evidence. Generally, UAS photos and video are considered part of the investigative record and are not available to the public under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
- How is my privacy protected?
The intent of the UAS Program is to enhance MPPD’s response to emergency calls for service. As such, drones are used during an active response to an emergency or other call for police assistance. MPPD policy prohibits drone operators from intentionally recording or transmitting images of any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as inside private buildings, except where authorized by a warrant issued by a judge or in emergency situations.
- Can foreign countries gain access to MPPD’s drone data or information through a drone’s built-in software?
No. Our drone data does not utilize the onboard software from the drone manufacturer. From the outset of our program, we have used an encrypted, US-based software program to bypass the drone manufacturer’s systems. Our data is encrypted and is stored on US-based servers that meet federal requirements for confidential law enforcement databases.
- What training do UAS pilots undergo?
In addition to the training and study required to maintain a FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot License, all MPPD UAS Team members train regularly in a variety of locations and settings to ensure operational efficiency. All training is documented, and the records are maintained by MPPD and are subject to review by the FAA.
- What rules and regulations must MPPD’s UAS pilots follow?
All MPPD UAS pilots are subject to FAA regulations related to airspace use, and all must have a valid “Part 107” Remote Pilot License. UAS pilots are also subject to the MPPD Policy on UAS Operations.
- Why does MPPD use UAS rather than helicopters?
Helicopters and other manned aircraft (air support) are very expensive to operate. Currently, MPPD relies on the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department for air support. UAS can be used in a variety of ways that supplement mutual aid air support requests in a cost-effective and efficient manner, like the UAS aerial intelligence-led emergency response.
- When does the Monterey Park Police Department use UAS (drones)?
MPPD uses UAS in a variety of circumstances, such as documenting crime and accident scenes, searching for missing or wanted persons, fires, and evaluating damage after a major incident or natural disaster. These can happen anywhere in the city and the MPPD UAS Team will respond to those on an as-needed basis. The Monterey Park Police Department UAS Team intends to use UAS in innovative ways to serve the community. The UAS may be deployed to fly towards the scene of such incidents as a crime in progress, serious accident, officer in need of assistance, or any other incident where having advanced knowledge of what is happening at the scene before police and fire first responders arrive may add to safety and efficiency.
- For more FAQs related to UAS, please visit the Federal Aviation Administration’s FAQ page.
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