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Drone expansion - Toronto Police Training Constable Doug Elo, Thunder Bay Police Primary Response Inspector Joe Dampier, TBPS Constable Tom Armstrong - (CJ Goater/Acadia Broadcasting)

City police expanding drone usage

By CJ Goater Jun 6, 2024 | 1:55 PM

Thunder Bay just got a little bit safer.

The Thunder Bay Police Service is expanding its usage of drones to the Primary Response Branch.

Eight officers with the branch are receiving training to prepare for the change.

Until recently, drones were only used by a few specialty units within the police force. Now the patrol platoon, traffic unit, and emergency task & canine unit will have expanded access to use them.

“By expanding it into our primary response, we’ll have (drones) out on the road,” explained TBPS Inspector of Primary Response Joe Dampier. “Officers will be able to access it much quicker.”

The police force will be up to 12 drone pilots once the new officers complete their training.

“We will roll this out, assess where we’re at and if we see a need or an opportunity to expand it a little further then we may do that,” said Dampier. “But for the time being, we’ll get the eight new officers up and running and see where we are.”

So far drones have been used for things like traffic enforcement, and missing person searches. “It’s an evolving technology as well,” said Dampier. “So as we expand our program and learn all of the different applications that we can utilize it in, it just provides us with more opportunities.”

Outside of searches, the hope is that the expanded drone training will also benefit officer wellness with more officers available and capable of responding to calls requiring a drone.

“Things like missing people, in the past, we’ve had to call officers out who are at home,” said Dampier. “Instead of officers who have already worked the day shift now having to come in during the night and then having to go back to work again in the day shift (the drones will already be on) the road working and they’ll be able to go out and respond to whatever’s happening.”

It was also noted that the drones could have additional benefits to officer health through their use in police pursuits as well as standoffs.