City Councilwoman Questions Oklahoma City Police Department’s Drone Program


Wednesday, September 8th 2021, 6:40 pm
By: Storme Jones


OKLAHOMA CITY -

An Oklahoma City councilwoman is raising questions over the police department's use of drones.

Last weekend, OCPD posted video to social media from a department drone used to locate a suspect believed to be armed following a pursuit.

Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon said she was surprised to learn the drone was used in an active pursuit after last being briefed on the drone program in 2019.

“If we’re going to be utilizing things like this, it really needs to be in a really transparent way,” Hamon said.

In December 2019, Chief Wade Gourley told the council the department was launching the drone program to map traffic scenes. He said it could be expanded to include mapping crime scenes and monitoring large crowds during special events.

“It’s almost two years later and it’s like we’re all the sudden using it for this new thing without any sort of public update, let alone privately to council,” Hamon said. “We just thought all the sudden, ‘What if we use a drone?’ There’s just something that really isn’t clicking about that.”

The Oklahoma City Police Department Office of Media Relations said Gourley was unavailable for an interview Wednesday.

“This particular purchase, what we’re looking to doing to try to get our feet on the ground with us using it to investigate fatality accident scenes,” Gourley told the council in 2019.

Councilwoman Nikki Nice, Ward 7, asked the chief what assurances could be made that the drones would only be used on accident scenes.

“It’s not my intent to just use them for accidents right now. We will expand out from there. I want to use them on crime scenes especially our more serious crimes where you have spread out amounts of evidence,” Gourley said in 2019.

Hamon said updating city council on these types of changes is more of a courtesy than a requirement.

“It just concerns me that it could be abused very easily if there isn’t the spirit of transparency and accountability from the jump,” Hamon said.

Gourley is expected to provide more information on the drone program next week.