Later this year, the New Albany Police Department could start using a drone to aid in responding to some calls for service.

The department budgeted $24,000 for the project this year, said Chief Greg Jones.

The drone will have a camera and infrared capabilities, he said, and the city is expecting to purchase it by the end of the third quarter.

The city is in the process of determining the vendor and product, according to city spokesman Scott McAfee.

The addition of the drone is one of three goals the department has made for the new year. Other goals include creating a quality-assurance program for the department's 911 dispatchers and creating new training curriculums for dispatchers and officers.

In the case of the drone, Jones said, the technology would make it possible to search wooded areas more quickly in the event of a missing person.

Another advantage of drone technology was illustrated a year or so ago, when police were dispatched to a man in his vehicle who was threatening suicide.

The man had a gun to his head, Jones said. Officers needed to assess the situation but couldn't approach the vehicle for fear of the man shooting himself or officers.

When the Franklin County Sheriff's Office arrived, a drone was used to take photos of the vehicle, and infrared technology showed the vehicle as the sun was setting, Jones said.

Eventually, a SWAT unit arrived and the man surrendered, he said.

Meanwhile, the 911 quality-assurance program is an improvement department leaders have wanted for some time, but they have held off because of the work that accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies required, Jones said.

The department obtained CALEA accreditation last year; the organization's accreditation program seals are awarded to public-safety agencies that have demonstrated compliance with its standards.

Jones said the dispatching-improvement program would help provide consistency for the seven dispatchers and dispatch manager on staff so that when residents call they have the same experience from dispatcher to dispatcher.

"It won't be a comprehensive change in what we do," he said.

The program will be operational at the end of the third quarter, he said, and staff members would make revisions based on feedback from officers, dispatchers and residents during the fourth quarter.

The improvement program has no budgeted cost, according to McAfee

Finally, the new training program will apply to improving the entire police department, Jones said.

Some of the items will be related to annual or biannual CALEA requirements, while others will be chosen by staff members, he said. Some training would be for the entire department, while other parts would focus on dispatchers or sworn officers, he said.

The training program has no specific budget, McAfee said.

"This is an in-service training initiative focused on our procedures and directives, many of which have changed due to the accreditation process," he said.

Because the police force includes a number of newer members, some of the focus would be on on reinforcing the basics, such as patrolling and communication, Jones said.

McAfee said the department has a sworn staff of 23 officers, which is below the authorized staffing level of 28, and the eight dispatchers.

Eleven of the 23 officers have been with New Albany fewer than five years, McAfee said.

Although the list of topics has not been completed, Jones said, he would not be surprised if such topics as CPR, use of AED defibrillators, administration of naloxone and procedures regarding holding facilities would be included.

Possible topics could fall under the category of high liability items -- high-stress incidents, such as pursuits, that don't happen with much frequency, Jones said.

He said he wants officers to react properly and competently when such moments arise, and training helps officers when they face those incidents.

"You don't rise to the occasion -- you fall back on your training," he said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah