Drone use a ‘game changer’ in helping deescalate situation


Dakota County Sheriff Joe Leko said Dakota County Sheriff’s Office drones played a critical role in a South St. Paul incident on Sunday, April 7 where South Metro SWAT responded to an armed subject in an apartment that was non-compliant.
“The DCSO drone pilots used our recently acquired drone spotlight and speaker to locate and attempt to communicate with the subject during the eight-hour standoff. As officers and SWAT secured the apartment building, the drone pilot maintained a visual from outside the window of the top ninth floor apartment. SWAT and firefighters successfully broke the apartment unit’s windows from the rooftop allowing a second, smaller drone to enter inside. Our drone pilot located the subject inside and monitored his location and activity until SWAT made the arrest,” Leko shared on social media. “For those wondering, we do not deploy drones to peer into windows without exigent circumstances or a search warrant. This potentially dangerous call met the requirements. Thankfully, it ended peacefully. Great work by all who responded.”
Leko said the DCSO was the first agency in the county to utilize drones in 2015 for public safety needs.
“Our program is the largest in the county and one of the largest in the state. The DCSO’s drone team consists of 15 highly trained and skilled deputies and five drones. We fly under the guidelines of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Public Safety Certificate of Authorization (COA). Each time a drone leaves the ground it is recorded and reported to the state in the BCA’s annual report. Drones are utilized for calls involving the safety of a person, search and rescue of victims and fleeing criminals, crash investigations, and documentation of crime scenes and natural disasters. In 2023, the DCSO flew 128 missions doubling 2022 numbers. The majority were training exercises but there are many notable instances where they played a critical role in locating suspects and keeping officers and the public safe.
I could have never imagined the technology, tools, and capabilities 25 years ago. Game changer,” commented Leko.