Drones A Valuable Asset for MPD

An investment in state-of-the-art drone technology has already proved to be impactful for the Merrillville Police Department.
The new tools have been used in a variety of ways since the Town Council in December authorized a budget of up to $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding for the cutting-edge crime-fighting drones.
Merrillville Police Chief Kosta Nuses said the importance of the drone program was on full display as the Police Department responded to a shooting April 26 at an apartment complex on 58th Avenue.
After a subject with a gunshot wound was located and transported to the hospital, the Police Department’s Mobile Command Center was on scene and deployed a drone in the air.
The drone helped the Merrillville Tactical Apprehension Squad (MTAS) and Merrillville detectives maintain a secured visual perimeter of the buildings in which subjects of interest were determined to be occupying. The subjects of interests subsequently came forward, voluntarily, to be questioned about the shooting.
Officers had significant ground to cover to ensure no subjects were hiding, and the drone assisted to monitor the scene. The bird’s eye view also gave officers a better understanding of the area’s layout, which enhanced their ability to assign locations for officers to cover.
“We were able to look at it from a different perspective, so this is something that we’re going to emphasize on now, especially when it involves a tactical response,” Nuses said.
The drone also was used to assist officers as they checked nearby buildings and verified that no one else was injured during the incident.
“We were able to lock it down and make sure nobody got in or out because we had the drone out,” Nuses said. “It gave us a really good game plan to go off of.”
The Police Department was able to purchase a variety of drones because of the $150,000 budget authorized by the Town Council, and Merrillville leaders are pleased the technology is enhancing safety in the community.
"My personal firsthand experience as a certified FAA drone pilot adds an extra layer of understanding and expertise to the initiative and I am pleased that my fellow ARPA committee members approved the expenditure,” Council President Rick Bella said. “It's a commendable step towards modernizing crime-fighting techniques and ultimately ensuring the safety of both officers and the community."
Nuses said there are other law enforcement agencies in the state that deploy a drone for every call to provide additional protection, and Merrillville looks to use the technology more frequently.
"It's fantastic to see the proactive approach Chief Nuses is taking to equip the department with cutting-edge tools like drones,” Bella said. “Drones indeed offer a remarkable advantage in terms of efficiency and safety for law enforcement. Their ability to cover large areas swiftly and provide crucial information in real-time can significantly enhance public safety efforts." 
Nuses explained that the department now has multiple drones that are designed for different applications. For example, one of the drones is ideal for a tactical response. A window can be broken, and the drone can be sent into a building to help officers locate suspects and determine if they’re armed.
“It’s safer for the officers, and it’s even safer for the suspect because we know what we’re dealing with,” Nuses said. “These tools help us better prepare to handle different situations.”
In cases in which officers are searching for a missing person or a suspect who fled a scene, they can deploy drones to establish a perimeter around an area and monitor it. The drones also feature thermal imaging, which is helpful to locate people even in low-light situations.
"We are thrilled to see the Police Department utilizing this cutting-edge technology.” said Town Councilwoman Keesha Hardaway, the chair of Merrillville’s Public Safety Committee. “These drones allow our officers to gather crucial intelligence more efficiently, which helps them respond to emergencies with greater precision.”
Nuses said Merrillville is collaborating with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, which has a similar drone program in place. By sharing knowledge, officers will gain more ideas of how to use the assets in more ways to uphold public safety.
“It’s only going to get better,” Nuses said of the drone program.