COLUMBUS, Ohio (WYTV) – On Friday, the Ohio Attorney General’s office issued a report on drones and how they should be used by law enforcement.
It said drones can be used for crime scene and traffic accident investigations, missing persons cases and active shooter incidents.
The Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office has had their drone unit for a little over a year. They have five drones, some with thermal cameras, and eight pilots.
Sheriff Jerry Greene describes it as a major asset to his force and the surrounding areas.
“You just can’t beat it. It’s a relatively inexpensive tool that will cover a large area, a lot of acreage when you’re searching for someone or something,” he said.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued 14 recommendations on how law enforcement should use the drones.
“Unfortunately, we’ve used it a couple of times on a couple of our lakes when there’s been drowning victims. We’ve used it for a couple of fires like the industrial fire over in Lowellville. Standoff situations. We’ve used them to monitor larger crowds like the time Crickets had the Queen of Hearts,” Greene said.
Being a government agency, Greene says people’s privacy is always first and foremost, which follows one of the Attorney General’s recommendations that drones should never be used to conduct unauthorized surveillance.
“You need search warrants for certain sensitive areas,” Greene said.
Another recommendation is for law enforcement departments to make sure their pilots are licensed and trained, and their drones are tested and inspected.
Overall, Greene says all of his department’s policies are about the same as what DeWine’s office has laid out.
“We’ve been following all the state standards already, ahead of time on what policies and procedures and proper training for our officers to have,” he said.
DeWine said the report was not meant to be taken as legal advice, just an educational tool.