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How Law Enforcement Can Harness the Benefits of an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2016
1 page
This is a summary of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) funded report entitled, "Considerations and Recommendations for Implementing an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program."
This report highlights a number of actions law enforcement agencies can take both internally and with community leaders in developing and implementing a policy on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The community must be represented in the discussion, since community acceptance is critical for the effectiveness of any law enforcement effort. This is particularly true for the introduction of unmanned aircraft systems, since resident perceptions of how these systems will be used have been conditioned by their misuse by some private individuals and companies. If the community does not already have one, police leaders should create a community advisory panel on the implementation of new technologies. Recommendations also include briefing members of the agency on the capabilities and intended use of the technology, so there will be a common message and understanding among agency staff as to how the UAS will be managed and used. This agency-wide understanding of how the UAS is to be used should be stated in agency written policies that are circulated among agency staff and community residents. Regarding privacy policies in the use of unmanned aircraft, an agency should fully understand the complex legal environment in which such equipment operates, since some States and localities have imposed stringent requirements in addition to Federal law on how this technology is to be used by law enforcement agencies. At the time of the writing of the NIJ report (December, 2016), only about 350 agencies nationwide had a UAS; however, as the benefits of a UAS continue to be realized by agencies that have them, the demand for their funding should increase.

Date Published: December 1, 2016