Drones could be used in police pursuits within a few months, according to acting WA Police Commissioner Gary Dreibergs.
Mr Dreibergs faced questions today about the deaths of an innocent Kingsley couple, whose were involved in a car crash with a stolen vehicle that had earlier been chased by police.
Police aborted the pursuit before the crash.
Mr Dreibergs said the police pursuit policy was under continuous review.
“It’s not simply an issue of policy, it’s about officers making good risk assessments around that policy,” Mr Dreibergs said.
He said drones were being considered as a direct result of the weekend’s accident, though police had been reviewing the use of surveillance drones in pursuits for the past 12 months.
“There are no results yet,” he said. “They are still in the process of being trialled. It would absolutely be an Australian first”.
Mr Dreibergs said drones could provide valuable information to officers on the ground.
“There are tactical reasons for aerial pursuit,” he said. “They make sure areas are safe.”
Curtin University Law School lecturer Anna Bunn said drones had a unique ability to help police with aerial pursuits.
“(They) have a capacity to intrude into private spaces that automated aircraft and other types of observation do not,” Ms Bunn said.
But her colleague and senior lecturer Guy Charlton said the use of fixed-wing aircrafts created a number of issues regarding rights to privacy, including the overlap between public and private spheres.
Dr Charlton questioned the extent to which the use of a drone would constitute a search.
“I don’t see that there would be a privacy issue right away,” he said.
“The issue with drones is that they might intrude on the privacy of individuals unrelated to the pursuit.”
Dr Charlton said proper protocols were needed to prevent breaches of privacy and to control how the information collected by drones could be used.