Kent PD Policy #16.150 - Unmanned Aerial Devices
This policy is intended to establish guidelines for the use of unmanned aerial systems, including retrieval and dissemination of images and data captured by the UAS.
It is the policy of the Kent Police Department to utilize UAS to enhance the department’s ability to save lives, protect property and document crime scenes and collision scenes. Any application of the UAS will be in accordance with Federal, State and City laws, to include constitutional privacy rights, search and seizure regulations and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
An unmanned aerial system is an unmanned aircraft of any type that is capable of sustaining flight, whether remotely controlled or preprogrammed and all the supporting or attached hardware designed for gathering information through photography, video recording or any other means. UASs are also commonly referred to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones.
Personnel operating an UAS shall be mindful of privacy rights and absent a warrant or exigent circumstances shall not intentionally record or transmit images in any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g., inside house, fenced yard, enclosed area only visible from an elevated position). Operators and observers will take reasonable precautions to avoid inadvertently recording or transmitting images in violation of privacy rights.
Use of vision enhancement technology (e.g. thermal or other imaging equipment not generally available to the public) is permissible in viewing areas only where there is no protectable privacy interest or when in compliance with a search warrant or court order. In all other instances, legal counsel should be consulted.
All uses of the UAS must be authorized by someone the rank of sergeant or higher. The UAS operator has the ability to decide to decline applying the UAS in any given situation.
Crime Scene and Collision Scene Applications - A primary use of the UAS will be to conduct crimes scene and collision scene documentation.
Search and Rescue – A UAS may be deployed in an effort to locate missing children or elderly in areas where a UAS has a greater potential of finding the missing.
Officer Safety Tactical Applications - A UAS may be deployed in an effort to protect officers from unnecessary exposure to danger and minimize the risk of injury to bystanders, officers and suspects, and enhance the likelihood of bringing peaceful resolutions to potentially deadly incidents. Use of the UAS for these safety purposes should be limited to incidents involving violent felony suspects, or involving persons who are emotionally or mentally debilitated and pose a risk of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or others, or those fleeing from police apprehension, or any situation requiring the capabilities of air support. Examples of these types of incidents include, but are not limited to, armed barricaded suspects, armed suicidal suspects, high risk search warrants, high risk violent offender apprehension, hostage situations and bomb threat/improvised explosive device investigations. These types of incidents will likely require remote manual operation of the UAS.
Mutual Aid – Valley SWAT - Deployment of the UAS as part of mutual aid within our city limits to support a Valley SWAT operation is authorized as long as its use meets the standards for "Authorized Uses of UAS" listed above. Deployments inside buildings will be subject to the restrictions currently in place for deploying robots, pole cameras and other observation devices utilized by Valley SWAT, to include search warrant requirement. Use of an UAS in this capacity must be authorized by someone the rank of commander or higher.
Community Outreach Demonstrations – In an effort to encourage public trust and effectively engage our community, the use of an UAS as part of a community meeting or special event is authorized. The UAS demonstration should be limited to showcasing the department’s investigative capabilities and educating the public on the UAS program.
The UAS shall not be used for the following.
o To conduct random surveillance activities
o To target a person based solely on individual characteristics, such as, but not limited to race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation
o To harass, intimidate or discriminate against any individual or group
o To conduct personal business of any type
Only personnel who have successfully completed the required training shall be permitted to operate the UAS.
Each authorized UAS operator will maintain a flight log. Operators will log the date, flight time and locations of all UAS deployments. They will also note, case number, incident type, automated flight or manual flight, and whether photo images or video were captured during the flight.
The Chief of Police will designate someone the rank of commander or higher to oversee the UAS Program. Their duties will include the following:
o Ensuring that policies and procedures conform to current laws, regulations and best practices.
o Establishing a training standard for operators that meets FAA requirements
o Overseeing the selection and training of operators
o Maintaining and updating the Certificate of Authorization (COA)with the FAA
o Overseeing procurement and maintenance of UAS equipment
o Review of UAS deployments to ensure compliance with policies and operating procedures
o Conducting audits of flights logs semiannually
Photographs and Video Recording
All photographs and video recording collected by the UAS will be copied to a thumb drive, DVD, or CD and entered into evidence.
Retention of Data
Photographs and video collected by the UAS shall be retained in accordance with Washington State Records Retention Schedules.