FARMINGTON, Utah (ABC4) – More police in Utah are expanding their view of what they can see at the crime scene. More police departments are now using drones to give them an aerial perspective. ABC4 News stopped by the latest department now putting them to work, in this edition of Behind the Badge.
Reporter Brian Carlson talked with a number of Utah police departments adding drones to their fleet. The most recent department is in Farmington, where the chief believes this is where police and technology are going.
Getting a new view on crime is easier with an eye in the sky.
“It’s amazing what you can pick up from us being a half mile away,” said Eric Miller, Farmington Certified Building Official.
City Building Official Eric Miller is one of Farmington’s new drone pilots. The city recently purchased two new drones, and it’s now training with the police department, in part, to give officers an added angle on emergencies and dangerous criminals.
“We can go back to the wide deal, and we can come on in and start doing the zooms,” Miller said.
“Oh, so it has two different camera angles happening at the same time?” Reporter Brian Carlson asked.
“It does yeah, so this one will take a video of the wide, it’ll take a video of the zoom and it’ll also take a video of the infrared all at the same time. So, it makes… it’s kind of cool.”
On this day, the drones are offering a new set of eyes for Farmington Police, training to pull over a high-risk criminal. The police chief said it gives them a view inside the car without having to put an officer in danger.
“Instead, we can do it from altitude and from a distance where quite honestly the subject wouldn’t even know the drone is being utilized,” said Eric Johnsen, Farmington Police Chief.
Chief Eric Johnsen said had they had the drones back in 2021 they would’ve used them during a hostage situation with a wanted man on the run that eventually ended with officers shooting and killing him. While drones may not have changed the outcome, the chief said having that bird’s eye view would’ve made the scene safer.
“Sometimes not only where they are, but where they are not is helpful for our safety,” said Johnsen.
And he believes pretty soon police drones will be the standard.
“Like everything else in our profession if we’re not keeping up with technology and advancing our training along with it, we’re going to get left behind,” said Johnsen.
So today keeping up with technology means staying above it.
“You can be over 400 feet away and still get that tight of a shot?” asked Carlson.
“You can, yup,” said Miller.
And it lets Farmington police see something, before today, they never spotted from the ground.
The police chief said he knows drones bring up privacy concerns. He wants people to know they’re aware of their 4th amendment rights and said they have a responsibility to be sensitive to those issues.