SPD to buy five drones

Published 10:30 pm Friday, October 30, 2015

The Selma Police Department will soon have eyes in the sky to help police events after the Selma City Council approved the purchase of drones.

The council approved the purchase at Tuesday night’s city council meeting with a unanimous vote.

According to Selma Mayor George Evans, the city will purchase five drones for approximately $7,000. The money used to purchase them will come from the city’s red light camera fund.

Funds from the red light cameras go into their own account and are used for public safety needs.

Evans said the city has talked about the idea of purchasing drones for the last several months as an added safety measure during large events.

“The drones will be used for special events that we have in Selma such as the Battle of Selma, the Jubilee and even the rib cook-off and events and programs at the amphitheater,” Evans said.

“As we have events in our city and we need coverage, those drones will be up there watching everything that goes on down below, and if anybody decides they want to do some stupid stuff, we’ll be able to capture them day or night.”

Evans said the drones would ideally be used for surveillance, but until lawmakers clarify legislation regarding drones the city will use them as an extra security measure during large events.

“The idea initially was that we could have drones circle the city at night, but that at this point is not something that has been approved by the Attorney General legally, so we can’t,” Evans said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Evans said the city will have to abide by Attorney General Luther Strange’s recommendation until laws are set in place.

Evans said the drones will be operated by the Selma Police Department.

“The police department will handle everything with the drones. They’ll be strictly handled by the police department,” Evans said. “There will be certain training they will have to go through and certain requirements to operate them.”

Evans said footage taken by the drones will be monitored and can help police identify suspects if they happen to catch someone in the process of committing a crime.

“It will be beneficial to go back and look at them and pinpoint the area where it happened where the drone has been circulating,” Evans said. “They can go zoom in on it and go back to a certain time, so they’ll be beneficial in capturing people.”

Evans said the drones will not be a replacement for officers on duty.

Before the city orders the drones and starts using them Evans said they must provide information to the Attorney General’s office about how the city intends to use them.