Law enforcement and technological advancement, surveying the crime scene

Police officer operates a drone.
Police officer operates a drone.(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Mar. 12, 2022 at 4:41 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - If you’re older than 20, you might recall a time before cell phones.

It’s safe to say over the years technology has advanced significantly, and with it, it’s uses.

Of all of the things it’s made more convenient in your life, it’s done the same for police.


Some fly for fun, others to investigate. Like Derek Mann, Crash Reconstructionist with the Rapid City Police Department.

“We utilize the drone to take an aerial photograph of the scene looking straight down. The drone is the perfect tool for that,” Mann explains.

Mann is one of the few officers within the Police Department who are licensed to fly, “whether it be an accident investigation, or search and rescue. Stuff like that.”

Many technological tools are used to help spot and piece together other important aspects of the scene for Mann to figure out, like “the tire marks, the roll over. Final rest of the vehicle.” Things that help if anything ends up in court, and “figure out speeds. Figure out what exactly happened to the vehicle at the time.”

Mann has been at this kind of stuff for more than 30 years. Needless to say, times have changed, because “when [he] started, [he] used tape measures. Very labor intensive.”

What used to take days can now be done in a matter of hours, and even reflects a more accurate representation of the scene, because Mann explains “literally hours after the crash, I have the picture of the road of what it looked like. Like, when it’s bad weather we can put the drone up and it will show the road if it was snowy or icy.”

Through windy conditions, snow and more the drone can get the job done, because “it’s very nimble.”

He’s happy the drone came along to paint a better, more accurate picture of a crime scene. He says, “it’s a great tool for law enforcement in criminal investigation or accident reconstruction. Search and rescue, I mean the drone is just irreplaceable.”

A handy, helpful and fun to operate tool, but although Mann’s been at this a while, in the end, police work can take a toll. He says, “it’s tough and it’s the same way for detectives working a homicide. We’re investigating someone’s worst day.”

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