GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tuesday night, more pushback came from the community on a proposed plan to bring a drone program to the Grand Rapids Police Department.
Police Chief Eric Winstrom wants to purchase six drones and train up to 10 officers to pilot them.
Winstrom said he’s been challenged on privacy protections but has maintained that the drones will not be used for surveillance, and instead will help improve policing.
“Whether you live in the Third Ward, the Second Ward, Walker or Big Rapids, you deserve adequate police service,” said Winstrom. “And you should be expected to receive that here in the second biggest city in the state of Michigan. And because of the benefits of this drone program, I think that it’s the right thing to do for the citizens of Grand Rapids.”
Several people spoke against the plan during a public hearing at Tuesday night’s city commission meeting.
“Something in my spirit tells me this public hearing is just a formality and GRPD is going to acquire drones no matter what we say against it today,” said one community member. “It’s important to note that the use of drones raises valid privacy concerns, as they’re seen as an invasion of privacy and form of intimidation of community members that are calling for accountability and transparency from our city officials.”
Winstrom has previously said Grand Rapids was “late to the party” and that a lot of other smaller agencies already have drones. He said they would be used for various things, including finding a suspect in the bushes or finding a lost child in the woods.
“To be frank, I don’t care if a bunch of these other cities have these drones. Let’s be the city that doesn’t, let’s be the city that’s safe and actually cares about safety,” said another community member.
Winstrom said he plans to have another community forum to get input. He also plans to go to neighborhood association meetings and hear their concerns about the drone proposal.