The Rice County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday concerning the Sheriff's Department use of "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles."

That apparently is what drones are called in a new state statute.  No members of the general public spoke during the hearing which is required by that statute.

Rice County Attorney John Fossum explained, "After the drone was purchased, during one of the special sessions the legislature changed the law and made this hearing a requirement.  So even though we already had the drone, already had a policy in place we're having the public hearing to make sure we are in compliance with the statute."

Sheriff Troy Dunn reported, "The new statute became effective August first of this year.  Rice County is the fiscal agent for the Cannon River Drug and Violent Offender Task Force or as you guys know it as the drug task force."

Dunn said, "In November of 2019 we purchased that drone with forfeiture money that we garnered through the years.  We have one through the task force which is made up of Rice County, Le Sueur County, Faribault Police Department, Northfield Police Department and some of the smaller municipalities within Rice County are also paying members but don't provide agents."

The Sheriff added, "As of yesterday's board meeting I think we had 19 uses of the drone since we purchased it.  A majority of those have been training.  The remaining ones so far have been assistance to other agencies in locating either a suspect or a missing person.  We've not used them on any tactical operations but I think the drones provide a great safety feature for us.  Especially if we believe a person might be armed that we can garner intelligence to see if the person might be holed up somewhere with a firearm or some other kind of weapon."

Dunn concluded, "As of this time we have not had to use it for that and I hope that we never have to."

The Rice County Sheriff thanked commissioners for their support of the drone program.