San Jose City Council to hear plan for police department drone

- A controversial drone owned by the San Jose Police Department may soon be one step closer to taking flight.

The department purchased the drone for $7,000 back in January of 2014. Tuesday, department officials will go before the city council with a plan for how it will be used.

"I'm pleased it's making progress. Did it take too long? Absolutely. Should we already have had access to the drone in order to keep officers safe and the public safe? Absolutely," said police Sgt. Paul Kelly, who also serves as the President of the San Jose Police Officers Association.

But it was, in part, public concern that slowed the process down.

"The police got that drone without public comment first and the public became concerned as to how it would be used," said Chair of the San Jose Neighborhoods Commission Dr. Larry Ames.

The San Jose Neighborhood commission became involved, holding six meetings to get public input. They ultimately helped craft and sign off on the new drone rules.

"We did not want it to just be, Yes, we approve this one use and then go off and do whatever you want to afterwards," Ames said.

As they stand, the rules say the drone can only be used in the case of an explosive device or an active-shooter situation. There can be no surveillance.

In addition, the camera won't be allowed to record video, there can be no acoustical recording devices and the drone can't fly at night.

"I think we've got a policy that will be a model for the rest of the country. Recognizing that drones are important devices to protect the lives of officers in those extraordinary situations and protect the lives of the public," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Some San Jose residents say they're still not convinced.

"Once you open that Pandora's Box, you can't close it," said Andrew Gauldin. "There's a lot of different ways that they can go about increasing public safety and empowering police officers to do their jobs and drones are just a bad idea."

The San Jose City Council will take up the matter Tuesday afternoon. Local residents shouldn't expect to see a drone overhead right away. The administration still needs approval from the FAA before the one-year pilot program can get underway. 

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