Police Ground Drone Program

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas said this afternoon that after careful consideration, and in collaboration with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, the Police Department will not participate in the Draganfly drone “Flatten the Curve Pilot Program.”

The department’s recent announcement of a plan to partner participate in a test of drone technology drew public concern.

“To those who reached out directly to the police department, the selectman’s office or otherwise made public these questions or concerns, we sincerely thank you for your continued community engagement and seek to assure you that your voices have been heard,” Koskinas says.

A Draganfly drone

Marpe notes, “in our good faith effort to get ahead of the virus and potential need to manage and safely monitor crowds and social distancing in this environment, our announcement was perhaps misinterpreted, not well received, and posed many additional questions.

“We heard and respect your concerns, and are therefore stepping back and reconsidering the full impact of the technology and its use in law enforcement protocol.”

Koskinas adds, “I am always committed to bringing our community the most innovative solutions to the public safety problems that it faces. Although I see the greater potential of this technology, I will always be responsive and respectful of the concerns of our citizens in every decision that I make.

“It is a fact that the COVID-19 virus continues to spread through the global community, and therefore poses a serious and credible threat to us all now and in the future. In our steadfast commitment to public service, we remain honored to have been given an opportunity to assist in a pilot program which could someday prove to be a valuable lifesaving tool. We thank Draganfly for offering the pilot program to Westport, and sincerely hope to be included in future innovations once we are convinced the program is appropriate for Westport.

“The Westport Police Department has always made public safety its primary focus while simultaneously respecting the civil liberties of our residents and visitors. We remain steadfast in honoring this commitment.”

48 responses to “Police Ground Drone Program

  1. John D. McCarthy

    Good move.

  2. Addison A. Armstrong

    Thank you to everyone who let their opinions on this issue be known, either through direct outreach to the First Selectman and/or Chief Koskinas, or through signing the change.org petition. The petition received 417 signatures in the just over 30 hours that it was up. Updates on that tally were sent directly by change.org to the First Selectman’s office and to the RTM. This is a great result for our constitution and our democracy. It is also a great result for our town, whose citizens and leadership showed that they could find agreement on a contentious issue without rending the fabric of our community. E Pluribus Unum! Stay safe, my neighbors!

  3. “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

  4. Cristina Negrin

    There are new corona virus cases reported in Westport every day. Some people therefore are not following the stay at home/keep your distance rules. Personally I thought the drone program was a good idea. The only personal rights it threatens are those that don’t follow the rules and threaten the health of everyone.

    • The only problem is that the constitution provides the right to privacy. Catch 22.

      • Cristina Negrin

        Is your privacy more important than your life or that of others? What do you have to hide?

        • My personal medical condition is non of your biz. More than 50 percent of infected westportors have no symptoms, so spying on them wouldnt help anyway… I ve lived here for fifty years, freedom is most cherished. You sound like a communist from china.

      • Luciano Morelli

        There is NO expectation of privacy when in public. The Constitution does not grant you privacy when you are out on public lands.

        The drones scanning your “medical” information though opened up a can of worms. And just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is right.

        I was opposed to this program and am glad that the authorities changed their minds on this program.

        • Mr.Morelli: there certainly IS an expectation of privacy when “out in public.”
          Photos may be taken, but basic privacy is guarenteed as to person and speech….thus, the limitation on police searches such as the Guliani “stop and frisk”. Or, for that matter, police searches of your car when stopped for a traffic violation. The Constitution is in force even when you are outside.

          • Luciano Morelli

            Dan,

            You are wrong – there is no legal protection of your privacy when you are out in public. I am talking about having your picture taken. Anyone can do that. Pictures can be taken of you by anyone when in public. “Stop and frisk” violates your fourth amendment, a different matter than privacy. Same with police searches of your car – fourth amendment applicable here.

            Yes the Constitution is in force even when outside and that is EXACTLY why anyone can take your picture when out in public. They have a First Amendment right to do so.

            • If you give more care to the reading of what I wrote, Luciano, you’ll see that t I allowed as to how photographing is indeed allowed by the constitution.
              BTW: the 4th amendment is ALL about privacy and was enacted after Revolutionary soldiers entered homes with no warning or permission, thus INVADING THE PRIVACY of American citizens, which was strongly opposed by those citizens.

    • except that most are asymptomatic and can spread the virus, so its really not going to make a dent. not too mention all the potential security, privacy concerns, and liabilities.

  5. Thank you Chief K. and Mr. Marpe for always trying to keep the best interests of all Westporters in mind and understanding that personal liberties and rights don’t permit you to yell fire in a crowded movie theater as a joke. Too bad your efforts are thwarted by people who don’t understand this is a very different world we live in and the safety of all outweighs the expectation of unfettered rights of a few. Whether nationally with the battle over people who refuse to vaccinate their kids, bringing back long eradicated disease, to the local with the ridiculous fight to get school resource officers (oh, sorry officer) in our schools because they carry a gun (isn’t that the point?), etc., etc. My neighbor’s Mom (who we knew well) just passed away from complications of COVID-19 and my blessed Mother-in-law just died of cancer during this crisis and not only couldn’t we visit before they passed but the families are stuck in limbo with no ability to have memorials and closure. If there are extraordinary temporary measures available to save someone else this heartache I gladly support its use and trust Chief K. for its appropriate use. What’s wrong with putting your neighbor’s health and welfare ahead of your own selfish interests? Nobody is interested in spying on you with a drone unless you’re doing something wrong. We love this Town but sometimes I just have to scratch my head and wonder.

  6. While the intent and motives were well intended. The great police officers, all of our towns first responders ,community service depts and organizations in town had nothing but good intent, no doubt. This program would have set a dangerous precedent. It could have been a slippery slope towards
    infringing on rights of privacy. We’re not in a “GOTCHA “community.

    • Your comment started out so well, Mr. Perry. The Chief, by far the best, most thoughtful and protective of human rights we have had in the 50 yrs I’ve been in town ,sure deserves the praise with which you started your comment.
      BUT, your support of the drone program because “this is a different world we live in” misses the whole reason the 4th amendment exists…it is times just like this, Mr. Perry, that demand that we, as a nation,do not countermand the vital protections given us by the constitution.

      • Mr. Katz: It depend on the definition of “unreasonable”, which I would opine means your expectation of the freedom to do anything you want even if it endangers other people and society as a whole, IS unreasonable. Other than that your citing of the 4th Amendment doesn’t apply here. This has nothing to do with search and seizure and personal property rights. If you’re reference is because you fear the intended use would eventually turn into an infringement of the 4th then your comments about the Chief are self serving and hollow. But perhaps I am wrong, let me ask the 50,000 people COVID-19 has killed if they think their 4th Amendment rights would have been violated by using a drone to possibly save their lives. Let’s start thinking about someone other than ourselves for a change and just do the right thing, how about that? Then you wouldn’t have to worry about use of a drone for forcing people to do so.

        • It’s not the WESPORT use of the drone concept, Mr Perri, that worries me. And surely the threat of the Virus is calcuably serious….it’s that the acepted use of the drones will be exploited by them(Trump?, Barr”) that flaunt the rule of law and the Constitution…if I can stop you from saying “dirty words,” then free speech is comporised for all….RESPONSIBLE use of a drone is one thing, but to accept ANY use is to lose control of all uses. Not wise, I think.

          • Unfortunate to devolve the urgent discussion of saving people’s lives into fear mongering and political rhetoric. The agenda now uncovered, this discussion is ended. I wish you and your family health and safety during this horrible crisis.

  7. About Face‼️
    well done Westport 😎🇺🇸

  8. The initial Westport Now article states, “In the face of the invisible coronavirus, Koskinas said, the department was fortunate to be contacted by a local resident connected with Draganfly, a California-based drone company. The result was Draganfly partnering with the Westport Police Department, providing free, futuristic software.”

    This begs several questions…

    Can it be true that all it takes to implement a program that infringes upon our privacy rights is to place a call to the Police Department and propose providing free stuff? And, if this was a “gift” doesn’t the Town have a process for accepting such things…is there a monetary threshold for what is considered a “gift” and a procedure or policy for it’s acceptance? Further, we all know that nothing is truly “free” so shouldn’t we be asking the question of what was in it for Draganfly? Who would own the data collected? Was the data going to be sold? If so, to who and for what purpose?

    Finally, this program was proposed without the approval of the RTM and without a word of input from the public. As a veteran of several late nights at Town Hall spent watching residents fight pitched battles over fences, air conditioning units and the placement of pool equipment I am horrified that something as important as this was presented as a fait accompli by the Administration and the Police Department.

    I am pleased with the decision to withdraw our participation in the program but remain uneasy with all of the unanswered questions.

  9. In the present crisis, our leaders are called upon every day to make decisions with little or no precedent, no playbook, and imperfect information at best. It is entirely possible to make a poor decision in good faith, which is what the decision to use the drones was.

    Rare is the leader in our present world who can step up, admit error, and make a course correction when confronted with new information and in response to his or her constituents. Very much to their credit, Foti Koskinas and Jim Marpe did that here. They heard the people they serve, weighed the arguments, and changed their decision. Most political leaders in this country, local, state, or federal, are incapable of doing that these days. Mr. Koskinas and Mr. Marpe deserve kudos for their decision to change course on this issue.

  10. I believe Grayson Braun makes many fine points. The absence of publicity in advance and the opportunity for Westporters individually and as a body such as the RTM to weigh in on such a usage of drones were mistakes. A public discourse would have caused the many issues to surface, both pro and con, including whether or not this drone enforcement would have been effective. Societal cooperation is what is crucial. Without cooperation, enforcement is unlikely ever to work.
    Don Bergmann

  11. it is disappointing this drone issue had to even come up…. Westporters are STILL NOT staying home for the safety and health of OTHERS. still congregating… if westporters do what they are supposed to do for the GREATER GOOD, the drone issue wouldn’t have been proposed…

    • karen i think one of the largest issues is that most of the spread is likely happening at “essential” places such as the grocery store. if you want to solve a problem, you have to dive down to the root cause / focus efforts on where most of the the spread is occurring. so far, in my opinion, no one has made any significant efforts to stop the spread at essential places. i spent countless hours reading of scientific/medical studies. it seems that social distancing is antiquated, the virus is airborne (but its unknown how easily it propagates via that vector), homemade masks are not sufficient, and the list goes on. so how do you nip this in the bud? you don’t tell people to stay home and then make 1,000 different exceptions that allow them to congregate inside of stores. the next step should be emphasis on preparing and getting supplies lined up for fall flu season when this might be 10-100x worse. etc.

  12. Daryl Styner(-Presley), D.D.S.

    To the First Selectman & our Chief of Police:
    I thought the drone program was an exceptionally good idea, for our Town of Westport. To those who oppose this technology: The only personal rights it threatens are those who choose to not follow the rules and threaten the health of everyone else. This program was specifically to monitor public areas where people can / or already have congregated. For those young or older participants in these public get togethers, there is such a thing as “doing something for the greater good“. This drone program was for that. I am truly disappointed in our Town’s leadership to have “opted out” of this program, which would have provided another tool to have safeguarded the majority of our Town’s citizens. Instead, you have chosen a path which just makes it easier, for those who choose to not follow the rules requested for the “greater good”, during a major medical pandemic. So I ask, who are safeguarding our rights for protection, against those who deliberately choose to not follow the recommended guidelines to help stop the spread of this deadly virus.

    • Perhaps a better idea is for WPD to buy a drone themselves to use on a case-by-case basis where legal, that is not riddled with security and privacy concerns with some unknown third party in the mix?

  13. Thank you Chief and Selectman for making the right call.

  14. Daryl Styner(-Presley), D.D.S.

    To Joshua Stein: again, the people you’re describing are probably the same people violating the minimum 6ft distancing rule in essential stores, along with congregating in other public spaces. So who are putting the safety of the majority against the selfishness of those who choose to violate the 6ft distancing or congregating violators, or those who just want to get out and socialize because they are tired of being restricted. Whose protecting the majority for the “greater good”?

    • 6 foot social distancing is rubbish IMO. there are plenty of academic papers showing that it is antiquated and will not work in our present day. there are plenty of scientific studies showing someone coughing/sneezing projects droplets upwards of 30 feet almost instantly. there are studies showing that someone that is infected merely breathing/talking expels the virus into the air where it can float around and travel potentially hundreds of feet. so as far as i myself am concerned, i protect myself and have no faith that six foot social distancing (or whatever lack luster attempts are being made) will do much of anything. end of the day, people are still congregating in the grocery stores. my bet is most of the spread is happening inside those stores, all day long, every day. someone that was shopping or working in the store hours earlier could potentially leave their virus lingering in the air (or on surfaces) for others to get exposed to. so what are some real ways to stop the spread? a drone won’t make a dent.

  15. This shows the political risks of a government entity allowing itself to be used in a business PR stunt. Draganfly, a Canadian small business (confused with a California company named Dragonfly also marketing drone services),has been blasting out press releases for weeks claiming the ability to detect coughing and fever from the air. The Canadian company is a publicly traded “microcap,”meaning very small market capitalization, and subject to minimal transparency regulations vs. that required for US stocks.

  16. How do you ( or in your case, probably your wife) space yourself when buying food, doc???

  17. Daryl Styner(-Presley), D.D.S.

    To Joshua Stein: the six ft distancing only has its merit, when combined with people who are overtly ill stay at home, those out are wearing facial masks, and assuming people use the “elbow technique” should they cough or sneeze. Is it fool proof, no. But, those choosing to congregate on public beaches, Soundview Drive or on Main Street to shop or at Jesup Green is like playing “Russian Roulette”, for anyone they then come in contact with when come back home. Those are the public spaces that this drone program was to provide an additional tool, for our Town to attempt to mitigate sources of transmission. It’s for those who choose to violate rules which have been instituted for “the greater good”. If you’re not participating in risky behavior, in public spaces, than you have nothing to worry about. But to shield those participants who do willfully violate, and who clearly pose a subsequent risk to anyone whom they then come in contact with, is not fair to the rest of the Westport Community.

    • Grocery shopping is like playing “Russian Roulette”. The drone program cannot effectively / significantly mitigate sources of transmission. As a doctor, I hope that you understand that.

  18. There are something like 20,000 cameras in operation in Westport but this single drone, that very well may save lives is an outrage to your civil liberties? Please..

  19. There is something psychologically disturbing about spying on the public with a drone. There is a French philosopher who speaks about such techniques to control a population. Westport is very smart not to go there. Now, obviously, some Westportors have acted badly, having meet ups and what have you. So send a patrol car down. Police interaction with our community should remain traditional, meaning eyes on the ground, “break it up, time to go home folks.” As for monitoring heart rates and couphing, most peepshave no symtoms… So the software wont achieve anything. It cant tell if you have it. And finally, the beaches and outdoor spaces should be opened immediately, as the virus dies outside. Im going outside right now…

  20. Daryl Styner(-Presley), D.D.S

    To Bob Penderson:
    Are you just trying to be controversial? And rude? Choosing to participate in bad behaviors that place others in our Community at medical risk is what I referred to as playing “Russian Roulette”. Nor did I say that a drone program in-an-of—itself, will be the mitigant of disease transmission. What I did say, is that a drone program, provides an additional tool to our Town, for public spaces where people are being asked to NOT congregate. It allows our town resources to have eyes in more places that can be a source of problems, and to prioritize where those resources are needed & when. It then allows our WPD to mitigate those “risky behaviors” that become a source of disease transmission. That is what was said, or implied if you understood what you were reading.

  21. It’s not a bad idea. I think government cameras should also be installed in homes to ensure we’re all washing our hands frequently and properly, and not touching our faces. The program can be run by the Ministry if Privacy.

  22. There is always a trade-off to be managed between the public’s welfare and its right to privacy. In this case, it seems to me that the correct decision has been made. Westport is a small town and quite well-policed. Most gatherings of significant size and duration can be detected and disbursed without resort to such creepy methods as drone surveillance.

  23. Thank you Dan for providing the forum that gave all of us an opportunity to respond individually and collectively. For sure the rapidity of the town’s reversal was in a large part in response to the mobilization enabled by your service.

  24. You have NO expectation of privacy when you’re out in public. It’s not like they’re flying in your house or backyard–it’s the public streets. And no one’s taking names.

    What is wrong with you privacy nuts?? Radar guns are out there, cops are watching you, and if you run a red light, endangering the innocent, you get ticketed. Google’s on you all the time. You get involved in some sort of incident, the press is entitiled to photograph you.

    You can’t run out in the public streets and scream “Give me privacy!” You want privacy? GO HOME! THAT’s where it’s properly guaranteed you.

    Public health takes precedence over your abject paranoia.

    • Just because one might be paranoid doesnt mean they aren’t out to get you abjectly. Quote from a famous russian spy.

    • Thank you, yes, we already have surveillance and this takes it to another step. The difference is that it is a “surveillance weapon” that detects and also targets people for action to be taken.

  25. >>The difference is that it is a “surveillance weapon” that detects and also targets people for action to be taken.

    Like a speeder a cop spots, targets and gives a ticket to? That isn’t an abuse of authority, it’s in the interest of public health, as here. Maybe you haven’t phrased this well. Try again

    You remind me of the neighborhood residents who fought John Snow’s efforts to eradicate a London cholera epidemic by shutting off the contaminated Broad St. pumop.

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