City police recognized for drone program

Department wants to increase community connection, Tennant says



Pullman City Police Chief Gary Jenkins talks about the need for a new captain position on the force Jan. 15 at City Hall.

GEORGE ERALIL, Evergreen reporter

The Alliance for Innovation will award the Pullman Police Department for its use of drones in local government initiatives, community outreach and welfare projects.

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said the Outstanding Achievement in Local Government Innovation Award recognizes the department’s newly formed drone program.

“We not only use our drones for law-enforcement purposes, such as officer safety and manpower,” Jenkins said, “but we’ve also assisted the public works department in conducting inspections of water towers and WSU athletics in conducting facilities assessments.”

He said Pullman PD’s drone program began in 2017. The program was authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate and assist law-enforcement agencies in five Washington counties and two Idaho counties.

Pullman Police Commander Chris Tennant said Pullman PD has five officers who are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to pilot drones.

Tennant said the department made strides to advance community involvement.

“[The award] is something that the community can be proud of,” Jenkins said, “as it demonstrates that the police department is engaged in innovative practices to provide a safer community and resources that make the local government more efficient.”

The Aerial Adventure Day is an annual public event in August where the department presents an opportunity for community members to take a closer look at the latest policing equipment, Tennant said.

“[The department has] used this as an opportunity to educate the public about what is legal drone usage and what is not,” he said. “Also interact with [members of the] public that had concerns about drone usage and privacy.”

The Pullman Police Department will host the third annual Aerial Adventure Day on Aug. 10 at Kruegel Park, where the public can see demonstrations by the department’s drones, Jenkins said.

The event also invites drone enthusiasts and RC plane owners to bring their own machines and have a go at the obstacle course set up by the department, he said.

“If nothing else, it certainly provides another conduit where [the police] can interact with the public in a non-enforcing manner,” Tennant said.