West Salem Police Dept. one of first to experiment with drones

Police using drone to survey fire damage, look for missing people

The West Salem Police Department is at the forefront of law enforcement technology.

The department received a drone earlier this year. After months of training and unofficial use, the drone was used in an official capacity for the first time last month when the La Crosse Police Department requested its use to survey the area of the fatal shooting on Redfield Street.

West Salem Police Chief Charles Ashbeck says the drone allows police to quickly search an area without risking the safety of an officer.

“This technology allows us to potentially save lives by being able to search and rescue people who may be stranded or lost, elderly or young children that walk away, accessing damage in disaster areas or a fire zone, things like that,” said Ashbeck.

West Salem police stress the drone will not be used to invade the privacy of citizens.

“We rely on the public’s trust and I want the public to know that we are not here to misuse this,” said Ashbeck. “Our goal is to protect lives and that’s my job as department leader to steer our department in a way of how can we do our job the best and most efficient with the resources that we have.”

The department says they need a warrant to fly the drone, and it would never be used to spy on people.