SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Law enforcement agencies in Illinois may soon be able to fly drones at special events like parades and festivals.
A bill in the Capitol would allow law enforcement to use drones in situations like that to look for security breaches and any threats to public safety.
“They want to be able to attend these festivals with their children, and feel safe, and if we can put a drone up to help provide real-time intelligence to help with public safety, I think everybody’s in support of that,” Kenny Winslow, the executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said.
Currently, some law enforcement agencies across the state use drones for situations like search and rescue or to look for a missing person.
But they do face some restrictions, specifically when they want to use drones for public safety.
“We could put cameras up on telephone poles, we could put officers on top of rooftops, but we couldn’t fly a drone that was more discreet, that covered more ground [and] that provided better intelligence,” Winslow said.
Winslow said the drones can save agencies money and give them a better picture of what’s happening on the ground.
“If somebody can buy a drone for a lot less than what it can even do by putting officers on a roof,” Winslow said. “You may have to put multiple officers up to get a view that you can have a drone that can fly through and see multiple angles,” Winslow said.
The bill comes after the July Fourth mass shooting in Highland Park that killed seven people. The shooter attacked the crowd from a rooftop.
State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest), one of the bill’s senate sponsors, was at the parade with her family.
“Since that time, it has been so clear to me that we need to give the police just this one additional tool to be able to keep us safe,” Morrison said during floor debate on the bill.
Because of privacy concerns, the bill does put some limitations in place when law enforcement are using drones in these situations. They would ban agencies from using facial recognition software on a drone.
The bill passed both chambers with bipartisan support and is waiting on the governor’s desk.