Wheat Ridge Police Department Gets High Tech in 2024

Wheat Ridge Mayor Bud Starker
Wheat Ridge Mayor Bud Starker

Our council’s approval of the police department’s budget for 2024 marks a pivotal moment for law enforcement in our city, with the introduction of two groundbreaking initiatives aimed at enhancing public safety and investigative capabilities. 

One of the significant additions is the establishment of the WRPD Drone Program, reflecting a forward-thinking approach to policing in the modern era.

Incorporating drone technology into our police operations is a strategic move to bolster our crime-fighting capabilities and improve overall public safety. Drones provide us with a valuable aerial perspective that can be instrumental in investigations, patrol activities and managing active crime scenes.

The deployment of three drones underscores the department’s commitment to leveraging cutting-edge tools for effective law enforcement. These unmanned aerial vehicles can swiftly navigate various terrains, providing real-time data and situational awareness to officers on the ground. By investing in drone technology, the police force aims to enhance response times, monitor large areas efficiently, and gather critical information crucial for solving cases.

Departments across the Denver metro area have seen success in promoting public safety through the use of drones. Law enforcement agencies have used drones to search for suspects who are eluding agencies by tracking vehicle movement from the air, or thermal imaging to find suspects hiding in brushy areas during active scenes.

This investment will ultimately save the Wheat Ridge Police Department time, which is critical during active scenes and investigations, to promote better outcomes for safety in our community.

Simultaneously, the reintroduction of facial recognition technology represents another crucial step forward for the department. After navigating through the regulatory landscape and engaging the community through three public meetings, the Wheat Ridge Police Department has successfully cleared the necessary hurdles defined by the Colorado legislature.

Facial recognition technology, when used responsibly, can be a force multiplier for our police department’s investigative efforts. By automating the identification process through existing mugshots, we not only optimize our Crime Analyst’s time but also streamline the matching of potential suspects. It’s important to highlight that this technology will be used judiciously, with multiple employees verifying identifications manually.

The technology, which is set to be implemented this spring, is designed to improve efficiency without compromising privacy or civil liberties. The department is committed to transparency and accountability, with mandatory production of reports detailing the technology’s usage. This demonstrates a proactive approach in addressing concerns and ensuring responsible deployment of facial recognition tools within the framework of ethical and legal considerations.

The Wheat Ridge Police Department is the first in the Denver metro area to reimplement facial recognition technology, since new legislative guardrails have been put in place. As a department, this is an opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate this technology can be used with transparency, accountability and be a massive benefit to our investigators to generate crucial leads.

Our city council’s approval of the police department’s budget for 2024 signifies a commitment to innovation and adaptability in law enforcement. The WRPD Drone Program and the reintroduction of facial recognition technology are strategic additions that will empower officers, improve investigative capabilities, and ultimately contribute to a safer community.

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