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Drone patrol: Madison police plan for aerial response at Shake the Lake

MADISON (WKOW) — Shake the Lake is less than two weeks away and Madison police are already getting ready for the big crowds.

More than 50,000 people are expected to gather for the annual fireworks show and music festival on June 29. That’s a lot of people for police to manage — and navigate — if something happens.

A special team of police officers met Monday at Monona Terrace to prepare their aerial response for Shake the Lake.

Madison Police Department’s drone team practiced flying over the downtown area, working out the technical kinks ahead of the big event.

Police say drones give officers an essential view of the crowds, to help them better see what’s going on at all times, in case something goes wrong.

“With crowded events, it’s a great way where our commanders at the command post can actually make good decisions,” said Sgt. Daryl Doberstein, who leads the team. “They can see crowd densities, they can see where things are getting almost too packed in to be safe. Then we can guide people on the ground, help them fix those issues.”

Officers can use the drone to get a better look at a disturbance, find a lost child, or discover the best way to navigate the crowd to get help to someone having a medical issue.

Officer Jake Conrad says the training can help police search a larger area much faster to get help where it’s needed as soon as possible.

“Being able to put something up overhead 200 to 300 feet, and being able to kind of see what’s up ahead,” he said.

When he was a patrol officer, he would bring the drone along on patrol in case of emergency.

“If there was something evolving that needed it fairly quickly, I could respond right out there and get the drone up in the air for whatever they needed to,” he said.

Police say drones also add another layer of safety for officers when responding to incidents that could be dangerous.

“You can go in with a piece of equipment that makes it safer for our officers,” said Doberstein. “There’s not a split-second decision that has to be made, we can slow things down and make a lot safer.”

The police department will have continuous air coverage of Shake the Lake through the use of two drones and a 10-person team in the field, in the mobile command post and the command center downtown.

Officers at each location will be able to watch live drone video of the event.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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