Clovis Police Department turning to drones to increase social distancing

CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) -- During this time of social distancing, Clovis Police is using drones to get the message out.

The department is set to begin a 90-day pilot program where drones will be deployed as First Responders.

"During the COVID-19 emergency, we're trying to look for new and creative ways to try and keep our officers socially distant and physically distant, to where they don't have to make personal contact," says Clovis Police Lt. Jim Munro.

Officers say a drone response will be no different than what their police helicopter already does.

The pilot program is modeled after a similar program currently in operation in the San Diego County city of Chula Vista.

Since October of 2018, drones there have responded to over 2,000 emergency calls and are credited with assisting in over 270 arrests.

"In this day and age when we have to work smarter and harder with less resources, especially in the current situation that we're in, we thought this would be a good time to launch this pilot and see if it's going to work in the city of Clovis," Lt. Munro said.

The department currently has 15 drones with 9 trained pilots. Officials say drones allow for a much wider coverage area than any officer could on foot without putting a strain on resources.

"As an example, the drone could be deployed to a reported call of someone loitering, and the drone could see that the person is no longer there and cancel the officer, so the officer doesn't have to respond," he said.

According to officers, a drone will only be used for emergency type calls and will never be deployed to conduct any surveillance on residents or businesses.

"They will only be launched when the call comes in and officers are responding," Lt. Munro said. "Once the call comes in, and there's no need for air support after that, the drones will return to the rooftop, and they will stay here until the next call comes in."

The cost to the department is $0. A drone company is loaning the equipment for the 90 days of the pilot program
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