The Los Angeles Police Department announced Tuesday that it deployed a drone for the first time during a barricade situation last week, under a one-year pilot program authorized by the Police Commission last July.
The drone was used Wednesday in the 300 block of Berendo Street, where a robbery suspect holed up rather than surrender when police went there to arrest him about 4:35 that morning.
“We’re going to use devices such as this as we would all of our tools — in a responsible way, in a thoughtful way, and in a way that’s going to improve public safety as well as the safety of our personnel,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at a news conference at police headquarters.
The suspect had been wanted for a convenience store robbery in December in the 4900 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, according to the LAPD.
After several hours, a SWAT team was planning to enter the building through a door on the second floor, but needed to know if the man was hiding behind it, Moore said. That’s when a request to use the drone — known officially as a Small Unmanned Aerial System — was made by commanders on scene, and the request was approved, he said.
Authorities deployed the drone, and determined that it was safe to enter the building, where they found the man hiding in an attic and took him into custody without further incident, the chief said.
The one-year pilot program went into effect in mid-July.
“We get about two million calls a year for service,” said Los Angeles Police Commission Steve Soboroff. “This is the first time that anything went over all of the high hurdles to be utilized.”
Soboroff said the drone policy will be reviewed this July, when the commission will consider whether to modify the policy, as it had done with the policy regarding the use of body-worn cameras by officers.