Warning issued after private drone spotted over police incident

A private drone being flown over the site of a weekend police operation could have jeopardized officers’ safety by broadcasting live over the Internet, Comox Valley RCMP said.

Police had responded to a call from someone who reported seeing a man with a weapon at a Tull Avenue home. Attempts were made to make contact inside the home, and a negotiator and a police dog were brought to the scene.

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There turned out to be two occupants, with one leaving the home and being released about two hours after police arrived. The other came out shortly after and was arrested. An imitation firearm was seized. The man has been released and the investigation is continuing.

Comox Valley RCMP Const. Rob Gardner said having a drone at a possible crime scene is a first for the detachment. “It’s a definitely a concern as far as safety, and everyone’s safety.”

Police will try to find out who owns the drone, which was flying above tree level and eventually left the area, Gardner said. It is possible the drone picked up evidence and could be seized, he said.

Gardner said just the sound of the device above them was a distraction for police.

“You’re trying to deal with one thing and then you’ve got that buzzing over your head, too.”

It is important that police keep their activity under wraps, he said. “Any time our officers — not specifically the Emergency Response Team — are responding to an active and ongoing situation, we need to ensure their safety and security,” he said. “It’s imperative officers are able to move and position tactically and in some cases remain undetected in areas.”

Having the drone video shared on social media posed a danger, Gardner said. “When such information is being disseminated in real time, across the Internet, it doesn’t only jeopardize our officers’ safety, but potentially jeopardizes our ability to see a situation come to a safe conclusion,” he said. Along with that, a private drone could hinder a police helicopter or a police drone.

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