Police Drones: Fighting The Urge to Manage From Afar

Drone use is exploding in American law enforcement.

Especially programs that push out “Drones as First Responders” (DFR) — where sUAS are put up to scout locations before cops on the ground ever enter the area. But what I’m going to discuss below also applies to all remote-controlled tactical searches or surveillance.

Most, if not all, drones are capable of sending live-stream video to command posts, Real Time Crime Centers (RTCC), Joint Ops Centers, or ground units.

Pretty neat, huh?

You can imagine the huge wall of screens, right?

Let me tell you the downside here:

With this sort of immediate feedback being shared to off-scene commanders, it has the potential tendency for those bosses to over-exert their command-and-control on operators in the field.

DFR & RTCC programs both run the risk of doing such a great job at collecting information that commanders may feel a need, desire, or responsibility to (micro-)manage from afar.

We need to balance this awesome technology that keeps executives informed with an empowerment to keep operational units making decisions for themselves.


Post photo is a snip from a live-view of drone video footage in a residential yard-to-yard search for a criminal suspect.


Lou Hayes, Jr. is a detective supervisor in a suburban Chicago police department. He's focused on multi-jurisdictional crime patterns & intelligence, through organic working groups compromised of investigators & analysts from a variety of agencies. With a passion for training, he studies human performance, decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, & adaptability. In 2021, he went back to college (remotely!), in hopes to finally finish his undergrad degree from the University of Illinois - Gies College of Business. Follow Lou on LinkedIn, & also the LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model


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