Friday, December 15, 2017

Bethel Church offers to give Redding $25,000 for police drones

Bethel leaders are again opening the church's pocketbook to help Redding pay for policing by offering funds to purchase drones.

This time, though, they're offering just a fraction of the $500,000 given to save the Neighborhood Police Unit and the seed money for a campaign to raise another $740,000 in private donations.

More: City Council accepts Bethel donation for police unit

The City Council may vote to accept the church's $25,000, which would pay for two drones, licenses and training for six officers and supporting equipment.

The drones could hit the skies by mid-2018, Redding Police Chief Roger Moore said.

“I think the citizens are going to be excited about it like I am and I think it’s a wonderful tool that law enforcement can have to save lives,” Moore said.

Under guidelines proposed by Moore, the drones would be used to help with:
  • Serious or fatal wrecks
  • Missing persons or search and rescue
  • Drug investigations
  • Crowd control and crime scene management
  • Bomb disposal investigation
  • Perimeter searches and security
  • SWAT operations
  • Community relations and multimedia production
  • Training
But they won't be weaponized or used for "random surveillance," Moore said. 

“If we get reports, of let’s say, illegal campers along the Sacramento River, if we can’t safely get down there, we may take it down there to see if somebody needs help,” Moore said. “We are not going to take it simply to randomly look for issues.”

Redding wouldn't be the first local police department to use drones. Anderson Police in 2015 started using a volunteer hobbyist’s drone to help with field work, including chasing fleeing fugitives and targeting homeless camps.

Police Chief Michael Johnson didn’t return a message at his office seeking comment on how the department has used the drone.

Hobbyist drone pilots have strict limits on where they can fly locally. To prevent drones from colliding with airplanes and helicopters and to keep the airspace safe, 5-mile, no-fly radiuses have been established at Redding Municipal Airport and Benton Airpark.

Those restrictions put most of the cities of Redding and Anderson off-limits without permission from Redding airport officials and the air traffic control tower.

The Federal Aviation Administration, though, allows local governments to apply for special permission to fly drones and Redding is seeking that authorization, according to Moore’s report.

The move could draw out critics of Bethel's relationship with the city.

Pay-for-play accusations were leveled at the city when the council approved the church's new campus project earlier this month. The city and those affiliated with the church have denied accusations of suspect motives.

Moore also doesn’t put much weight behind those accusations, he said.

“I think that Bethel Church is simply wanting to help our community on many levels and one of the levels they do that is support public safety and I applaud them for their efforts,” he said.

Kris and Jason Vallotton, Bethel leaders involved with the donation, were unavailable Friday for comment. 

If you go

What: Redding City Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Council chambers, 777 Cypress Ave.

More information:cityofredding.org

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.redding.com

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