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Police designate donations for drone program

A donation from a group of electrical companies could help the Minot Police Department acquire its first drone, but the Minot City Council is requiring the department to prepare a policy for drone operation before making any purchase.

Eight companies contributed to an $8,000 grant to police: Wheeler Contracting, Larson Electric, Minot Electric, Northwestern Electric, Gefroh Electric, Jesse Braun Electric, Grosche Electric and Main Electric. With the donors’ agreement, the police department chose to put the grant toward establishing the foundation for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program.

Council member Carrie Evans voiced concern that the council has never discussed the use of UAVs.

“UAVs are becoming more and more a tool of law enforcement,” she said. “I really would like to learn more about how the Minot Police Department plans to use these UAVs for law enforcement, how it fits in the scope of Century Code.”

She noted state law places restrictions on use of UAVs, but public concerns about privacy prompt the need to create a policy.

“I would like to show the public there are legitimate law enforcement needs,” she said. “I think there’s misinformation out there about how these are used.”

Police Chief John Klug said drones are valuable in search and rescue operations and crime scene or accident reconstruction. They can be used to check potential explosives before sending in officers or in disaster response situations, he said. He added the technology the department would be able to obtain with $8,000 would be limited in capability but would be a start in developing an UAV program.

Council member Stephan Podrygula said he would like to find out how the police department might be able to share the technology with other city departments, particularly in emergency situations.

The council voted unanimously to accept the donation but to defer any action on acquiring a UAV until a use policy is developed.

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