Crossville Police Department taking patrolling to the skies

Published: Feb. 22, 2016 at 5:24 PM EST
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The Crossville Police Department patrols with an ear to the ground, and soon, an eye to the sky.

"Eye of an eagle, I guess you could call it," said Detective Donnie Hammons.

The force will soon use the new drones for search and rescue, car crashes and possibly S.W.A.T. situations.

"Probably speed us up a little bit. Aerial photography of crime scenes, crashes, things like that. We'll be able to see a bird's eye view of what will take hours to figure out on the ground," he said.

They're not the only department who can take advantage of the new technology.

"The fire department has use for it to see if there are hot spots in roofs, see if a fire is still going on."

Using the drones comes with some limitations. The department must follow Federal Aviation Administration guidelines along with Tennessee laws that require a warrant before a drone is used in a criminal investigation.

"That makes me think that legislatures are concerned that the government, police departments are going to abuse drones or at least have more access to drones," said Lincoln Memorial University associate law professor, Melanie Reid.

The rules with drones are more restrictive than the rules a department must follow with helicopters and airplanes.

"We have to fly by their rules and they have to approve everything that we do," said Hammons.

It comes with some concerns, too. Such as privacy and making sure the drones aren't misused.

"Fourth Amendment says we can't do that without probable cause and a warrant to back that. So, we're not going to be looking into your window," added Hammons.

Even though they can't fly higher than 400 ft. above ground, Hammons said because the drones carry a high quality camera, they now have opportunities to solve cases faster than ever before.

"It's cool, it's neat to be on the front end. I'm hoping that we can help other departments with the same technology. Maybe we can work out the bumps and smooth things out for other people."

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