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Bend Police used drones 721 times for 230 events last year, providing added safety to officers and community

(Update: Adding video, comments from Bend Police)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With technology becoming more essential in our daily lives, Bend Police are using drones to help respond to calls. The department's drone pilots made 721 flights during 230 events last year. 

"Drones just allow our officers to have more information," Communications Manager Sheila Miller said Tuesday. "They can see things from different angles. They can get a better sense of the full scene. Are there people around a corner? Are there additional people that we didn't know were out of scene?"

The Bend Police unmanned aircraft systems (drones) were used in a variety of situations, including search and rescue missions, executing search warrants, crashes and crime scenes.

The use of drones by law enforcement was once controversial, but now, Oregon state law says police departments can use the technology, under certain guidelines. 

Drones cannot be used for random surveillance -- the use needs to be justified each time they are use them.

For Bend Police, they are finding drones increasingly useful. 

In 2022, drones were used by Bend Police 316 times, and in 2021 it was 261 times. Bend Police have 25 drones and 12 drone operators. And handling a drone is a secondary duty for officers.

Lieutenant Brian Beekman said, "The training required to be a drone operator is you have to have your Part 107 FAA drone license and you have to pass a NIST qualification, the National Institute of Science and Technology, and go through basic training."

Each officer has two types of drones -- an inside drone and an outside drone. Beekman compared the two.

"This is shielded props (propellers), and so if this bumps into a doorway, it won't break the props. It can probably continue flying. Whereas this one has different capabilities, like a better zoom lens, but it's not designed to be indoors. So a little little difference in how they're designed."

Drones also help with getting cases prosecuted. Footage from drones provides video evidence for juries and judges to consider. 

Police said the fairly new resource helps keep their officers and the community they serve safe. 

Miller said, "It just really helps our officers be more safe and also helps our community be more safe."

But these drones aren't cheap, costing anywhere from $2,000 or $3,000 and sometimes, up to $12,000.

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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