Local Government

Fullerton Police to Test Drone as a First Responder Starting July 26

The Fullerton Police Department, in partnership with Flying Lion and Fullerton College, will be conducting the Drone as a First Responder (DFR) concept for a 30-day trial period.  This trial period will allow the department to determine if a DFR program is effective for our community moving forward.  It will start on July 26th.
DFR, as employed by FPD, will consist of drones positioned at a high point in the City, providing the ability to immediately deploy them to reported emergency incidents, calls for service, or first responder requests. In many cases, drones can arrive at any given incident prior to first responders on the ground.
The DFR Program follows all established FAA guidelines, privacy laws, and Fullerton PD Policies regarding the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS/Drones).
Since our initial DFR Program is being conducted in conjunction with Fullerton College and Flying Lion, our UAS program has adopted the call sign “Hornet”  in homage to the Fullerton College “Hornets.”  For more information, visit our website at www.FullertonPD.org.
From the Fullerton Police Department website:
How do I ask a question or make a complaint about UAS use in Fullerton?
Anyone may email the UAS Team directly at FPD-UAS@FULLERTONPD.ORG Contact the UAS Manager, Lieutenant Tony Rios, at (714) 738-6728. Also, anyone may make a service complaint to the Fullerton Police Department in person via phone at (714) 738-6716.
What is a drone or UAS?
UAS is an Unmanned Aerial System and is commonly called a drone. A drone is an aerial device with an onboard computer that is operated remotely, generally by a pilot on the ground using a handheld controller. Small drones are battery-operated, weigh less than 55 pounds, have several rotors like a helicopter, and are equipped with a video camera.
Where are the videos and photos taken by the UAS stored?
All video activation and/or photo evidence collected during any UAS mission is stored in the same manner and location as Body Worn Camera (BWC) video and other investigative evidence. The Police Department utilizes a private “cloud” service, Evidence.com, to store all digital evidence. The service is authorized and certified under both state and federal regulations for the security and protection of confidential information and is available only for official law enforcement purposes. Evidence is stored and saved for a limited time (one year or less) unless it is categorized as evidence in an actual crime or formal investigation. Then it is stored for a period of time consistent with all other evidence related to that incident/investigation.
Who has access to the video and photos?
Video and photos that are collected by UAS are stored for the purposes of conducting police investigations and subsequent prosecutions. Accordingly, videos and photos are generally accessible to police investigators for official use only. Like all police records, video and photos may also be subject to additional release under the same rules and restrictions as BWC Video and other items of evidence. Generally, UAS photos and videos are considered part of the investigative record and are not available to the public under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). For more details, please refer to the Fullerton Police Department policy on Portable audio/video recorders.
How is my privacy protected?
The Fullerton Police Department UAS program policy prohibits UA operators from intentionally recording or transmitting images of any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as private backyards or inside private buildings, except where authorized by a warrant issued by a judge or in emergency situations. Reasonable precautions can include, for example, deactivating or turning imaging devices away from such areas or persons during UAS operations.

6 replies »

  1. We were in our backyard today when we heard a buzzing sound and looked up and saw the drone hovering overhead. It was flashing a light. Maybe taking photos or video? I started taking photos of it and it suddenly sped off. I can see how this tech could be dangerous in the wrong hands.
    I also wonder who is going to pay for it? I don’t want to. Instead I would rather use the money for this 24-hour unneeded surveillance program to fix the potholes, aging water system and sewer system.

  2. 1) Are the drones already positioned in the sky?; 2) What else are the drones capable of? Surveillance?; 3) What will the drones actually do when they respond to emergencies?; 4) What is the cost of this program?

    • I am asking the police department more questions. In the meantime, I have updated the story with more information, including contact information for those who want to ask questions or make a complaint. Also, this looks to be a company (Flying Lion) that is doing the same pilot program in police departments all over Southern California.