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Redwood City police report use of unapproved drones during search for shooters

The devices were used during an Aug. 10 incident near Red Morton Park
Redwood City Police Department SUV

The Redwood City Police Department reported using military equipment that was not approved for use under its Military Equipment Use Policy during an Aug. 10 double shooting, according to a notice the department filed to the Redwood City Council.

Officers responded to the shooting at Red Morton Park and found two people with bullet wounds near the park. The department received numerous reports that the shooters fled toward a gated construction site within the park.

Police thought the shooters were still at the location when officers arrived, and the department determined that drones could be useful in locating the perpetrators. The department attempted to request the use of drones as identified in the city’s military equipment policy, but no such drones were available in a timely manner.

The San Mateo Police Department responded with two drones to assist with searching for the shooters. The drones were used to search the construction site before officers entered the area. The shooters were not located during the search, police said.

Redwood City Police Department's Military Equipment Use Policy, which was approved by the city council, complies with Assembly Bill 481, which designated certain equipment as “military equipment.” All law enforcement agencies in California must have their governing body adopt an ordinance approving a policy that describes each piece of military equipment the agency has in its possession and its authorized use. Drones are defined as military equipment under the 2021 legislation.

The Redwood City Police Department doesn't own a drone. The council currently authorizes the department to use specific models of drones operated by the San Mateo County Emergency Services Bureau and the Redwood City Fire Department. But some military equipment, including drones that aren't specifically approved for use, may be used during "exigent circumstances" – pressing or emergency situations – in accordance with the department's military use policy. The police department must notify the city council within 30 days of using unauthorized equipment.  

The incident will be further documented in the police department’s annual military equipment use report, which is due before the council in February 2024, police said.


About the Author: Sue Dremann

Sue Dremann is a veteran journalist who joined the Palo Alto Weekly in 2001. She is a breaking news and general assignment reporter who also covers the regional environmental, health and crime beats.
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