GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom held a community meeting Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of bringing drones into the department.
During the meeting, community members voiced their concerns. Many said they are worried the devices could be used to infringe on their privacy.
“I’m just not sure how you can use drones at all and not violate people’s privacy rights if you can see into people’s backyards from like 20, 30 feet up,” said one person.
Others concerned the drone program could be used to criminalize the Black and brown communities.
“Every program that an awful lot of you implement end up criminalizing the Black and brown melanated people of the community,” said another person. “And we’re not going to have it.”
Winstrom said when it comes to privacy, the drones would only be used for mission-based events like traffic crashes, search and rescues, and protests.
“Most people see it in the community as just a basic tool of policing,” said Winstrom. “And they want to know that when they call 911 to say that their child is missing, or that they were in a traffic crash, or that they’re a victim of a serious crime, that we have the proper tools to do the job.”
Winstrom said the drone program would initially cost about $100,000 to buy six drones and train about 10 officers to use them.
Tuesday night’s comments will be documented and reported back to community leaders for approval.