There’s a lot that’s new about the Idaho State Police in Pocatello.
In addition to five new troopers, ISP District 5 in Pocatello will have a new $6 million, 23,000-square-foot headquarters by mid-July, and local troopers now can use drones, thanks to a new Small Unmanned Aerial System that is up and running statewide.
“We initially started this (drone program) to map crime and crash scenes and now we’re starting to find more and more uses for them,” Idaho State Police Capt. John Ganske said. “In traffic accidents, we can get the drone up, shoot the video that we need and then move the vehicles so we can get traffic flowing quicker. And we are actually seeing things we wouldn’t normally see. It gives us the clues we’ve been missing.”
Capt. Eric Dayley said the new drone program, which features six DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopters at a cost of approximately $1,500 per unit, has allowed quicker and more efficient investigations.
“We’ve flown one with the Power County Sheriff’s Office with a search warrant looking for a stolen vehicle,” Dayley said. “Instead of having several detectives out searching an area, they were able to quickly search the area in just a matter of minutes with a drone. The efficiency of the drones is huge in my book. This saves countless man hours.”
Rather than entering a crime scene and potentially destroying evidence, the drones limit contamination because they hover over the ground.
“One of the Nampa officers flew the drone into a structure and we could see the suspect before entering,” Ganske said. “It was a thread-the-needle type of operation.”
Ganske said the ISP has 13 officers statewide that are remote pilot certified and they’ve obtained their licenses through the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We also put the officers through a skills course for the agency, and we encourage them to fly once a week,” Ganske added.
During a demonstration at the ISP District 5 headquarters in Pocatello, Ganske said the drone accessed 17 satellites that provide additional stability and guidance while flying the machine.
“These machines also have the ability to grid search,” Ganske said. “We can program the grid and the drones will fly the specific path, and we can either see it real time or we can come back and review the video.”
The drone operator can observe what the camera records in real-time, they can upload the video live to YouTube with a 30-second delay or they can download and review the material later.
“We want to educate the public as to what we are using them for, and one of the biggest things that we want people to know is that we are very sensitive to the expectation of privacy issues with the drone,” Ganske said.
“We know that we can’t legally or lawfully be 40 feet above someone’s house and be looking down into it. In those instances, if we were to use the drone, we would obtain search warrants from the judge.”
In terms of the new headquarters in Pocatello and the new troopers joining the force, Dayley said he is excited and anxious to get inside the building.
“This new headquarters will be such a great resource to the community and the citizens,” Dayley said. “Right now, we are spread out all over the town. Citizens will go to one place and find out where they actually need to go is all the way across town. This way it’s a one-shop stop at 5255 S. Fifth Ave.”
The current forensic lab is located, at no fault to the owner, in a dilapidated building, according to Dayley. The new headquarter building will boast three independent, state-of-the-art forensic labs.
“We will have a modern facility that will meet or exceed the needs of our forensic scientists,” Dayley said.
Though the five new troopers are joining their first law enforcement agency, Dayley said the new recruits show great promise and he is looking forward to adding additional coverage to Southeast Idaho.
“None of the new troopers have any prior law enforcement experience, and I’m just getting to know them but they seem to be very sharp and well-trained and motivated to serve the public,” Dayley said. “I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen so far.”