BCSO drones: Integral part of investigations, help keep officers safe

Program has been running for more than a year

By Max Massey - Reporter/Anchor

SAN ANTONIO - They are out at parks, on the shelves of your favorite electronics stores, and now, drones are an integral part in local law enforcement investigations and dangerous situations.

“There's all sorts of applications and they continue to come up with even newer applications. So I think it's going to play a vital role in law enforcement,” said Trace Shannon, an investigator in the BCSO traffic homicide unit.

Shannon is now a certified drone pilot for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and he sees firsthand the impact the drones have on what otherwise could be long and complicated investigations and life threatening situations.

“How they can keep people out of the line of fire especially our officers. That's very important to us. And you know and the fact that the more technology you have as far as law enforcement for side of it you know the more you can bring to a jury when they have to make that decision,” said Shannon.

Some of the BCSO drones might seems small run-of-the-mill toys, but they have high-tech capabilities.

“We've gone into the infrared spectrum and utilize a camera that is near infrared and that allows us to identify clandestine graves,” said Shannon.

Some of the high-flyers are linked with 4K and 6K cameras that can zoom in from as far as 16 miles away.

“In our search and rescue...  particularly the new and upcoming software will allow us to, if we have descriptions on missing people and we have clothing descriptions...we can actually input those colors into the software and it will pick them out of our photos and give us a better insight on where to look,” said Shannon.

The drone program has been up and running for the department for about a year and a half now, and it’s giving law enforcement officers who were hurt in the line of duty other opportunities to keep our community safe.

“I was struck by a lady that was texting and driving while I was on duty. I was a motorcycle officer,” said Arturo Garcia.

“Due to my injuries and the length of time in the hospital I ended up losing my left leg. It was amputated on May 18th of 2018,” said Arturo.

It’s was difficult to cope with losing a leg, and his life changing forever, a lot of questions were brought to light, but Garcia knew he was secure with BCSO.

“And after that of course like any anybody else concerned about their about their job and everything but my department stood right behind me. Sheriff guaranteed me that no matter what, I'd be coming back to work,” said Garcia.

Arturo Garcia is one of the first in the Drone Pilot Incorporated programs, making sure he gets properly trained in drones to be able to fly one of BCSO’s nine that are active in the field.

“I was offered an opportunity to become a drone pilot. Well I thought about it for half a second, and I said yes. So now currently I am going through it through the school to become a drone pilot,” said Garcia.

Garcia admits there was skepticism at first, but now he has a full grasp of what the future of drones could look like for law enforcement.

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“I see this as the future of law enforcement. Not only is it going to save lives it's also going to protect our guys out there in the field from any kind of harm or any kind of surprises that are out there,” said Garcia.

The drone program for BCSO is a three-phase program and Garcia is flying through, getting ready to take the reigns.

“I believe in moving forward. No matter what. This to me is just a little obstacle little bump in the road,” said Garcia.

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