At the regular city council meeting on Monday, March 13, The Dalles Police Chief Tom Worthy presented an overview of the new drone policy for The Dalles Police Department (TDPD). He was accompanied by Officer Kanyon Reams, who Worthy introduced as a subject matter expert in drone operations and policy development.
In his presentation, Worthy explained that the drone can only be used in compliance with federal, state and local laws. Facial recognition technology and random surveillance are prohibited. The policy also states that TDPD will not use the drone to harass, incriminate or discriminate against anyone. Additionally, the drones will never be weaponized.
TDPD will only keep videos and photos taken by the drone if they have value as evidence or for the sake of transparency, if police action that might draw media or community interest is filmed. The policy also states that footage won’t be edited, with the exception of cropping for length.
There are set parameters under which the police are allowed to use the drone: If there’s a warrant, probable cause or an imminent threat to life and safety, if there’s consent by the owner of the property they’re flying over, in order to survey or map a crime scene, or for training. If the governor declares a disaster, TDPD is also permitted to use the drone in support of recovery from that disaster.
In order to pilot the drone, an officer will be trained and receive Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 certification. According to Worthy, a number of TDPD officers have already received this certification.
“Safety is paramount in drone operations and this Part 107 requirement is really a safety briefing,” he said. “It’s the rules and regulations pertaining to the flight operations of the drone, which all surround safety.”
When reviewing the background and process of the policy’s development, Worthy explained that the policy had been in the works since June 2021, and that TDPD has worked with many partners to develop it. According to Worthy, TDPD collaborated with both the Bend and Eugene Police Departments, using their standing policies as templates. They also worked with the Gresham Police Department, who has a standing drone training that they allowed TDPD to participate in for free. Columbia Gorge Community College lent their expertise, equipment and training as well.
Worthy said they also learned from guides created by the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and the U.S. Department of Justice Cops Office. Additionally, the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office aided in their research by demonstrating their drone’s capabilities.
“To be completely honest, I didn’t know how much these things could do and it is really staggering to see how the technology has advanced,” Worthy said.
Throughout the process, TDPD also received input from the city council and city attorney. In February, they also sought public input through a post on Facebook, as well as a community forum on Feb. 21, which Worthy said was well-attended.
“The real output of that meeting was to further confirm we were on the right track, that there was nothing Earth-shattering in there,” Worthy said. “People had regular concerns, most of which were addressed in the policy as it stood.”
Worthy said the policy needed to change very little following review and that they were now onto their final draft. He said they were looking for adoption of the policy, though no vote was taken at the meeting.
In other news, the city council awarded a contract for the construction of an upgraded water main on Ninth Street. They also approved an amendment to their franchise ordinance with The Dalles Disposal, extending the agreement by 10 years.
Additionally, the city authorized City Manager Matthew Klebes to enter opioid settlements with drug manufacturers Tiva and Allergan, and pharmacies CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. If enough cities across the country opt in, the city will receive a currently undetermined amount of money to go to opioid abatement processes in the community.