The Denton County Sheriff's Office (D.C.S.O.), Special Operations Division (S.O.D.), includes the Drug Enforcement Unit, Criminal Patrol Unit, (2) K-9 Officers, Warrants Unit, and the Civil Unit including Warrant Research Specialist. S.O.D. also includes Investigators on special assignment to the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) Joint Terrorism Task Force (J.T.T.F.). Deputies within S.O.D. participate as Special Deputy United States Marshal's in the Joint East Fugitive Task Force. One of the K-9 Officers in S.O.D. is assigned to the Homeland Security Airport Group. The Tactical Team, which is comprised of the SWAT Team and the Crisis/Hostage Negotiation Team, is supervised out of the S.O.D. The newly formed D.S.C.O. The drone/Robotics unit is supervised out of the S.O.D. The S.O.D. is supervised by a Captain, a Lieutenant, and (3) Sergeants. The S.O.D. is made up of over 40 Investigators, Deputies, and Civilian personnel. S.O.D. is tasked with a variety of law enforcement missions directed at seizing drugs, weapons, proceeds of criminal activity, and, most importantly, taking career criminals off the streets of Denton County. S.O.D. additionally provides Training to officers and other agencies in advanced law enforcement operations.
The Denton County Sheriff's Office strives to enhance public and officer safety by deploying the latest in technology, equipment and Training. In 2019 the Sheriff's Office started an Unmanned Aerial Systems (U.A.S.) program and purchased multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicle's (UAV) commonly referred to as drones. In addition to the equipment the Sheriff's Office sent several deputies' to Training to become F.A.A. Part 107 certified UAV pilots. A UAS consist of a Pilot in Command (P.I.C.) a Visual Observer (VO) and a UAV.
UAV's have become common place in our society thanks to advancements in the technology and cost being greatly reduced. UAV's have also become common place among first responders, allowing officers, firefighters and emergency management personnel to evaluate situations safely and more rapidly than ever before, while being much more economical and obtainable than manned aircraft. Most departments could not afford to purchase and or maintain a helicopter or airplane. Now departments can have many of the same benefits for a small fraction of the cost.
Common deployments of U.A.S. consist of several scenarios such as:
Search and rescue of vulnerable or missing persons.
Situational awareness, assessing hazardous areas.
Damage evaluation following a disaster.
Critical incident management.
Crime scene documentation.
Traffic collision investigation.
Surveillance of suspected criminal activity.
U.A.S. have become a force multiplier, drones are able to search large areas with line of sight restrictions in a matter of minutes. Traditionally this would require multiple deputies several hours while being exposed to hazardous environments. U.A.S. also deploy technology such as infrared that when combined with the elevated position allows pilots to quickly find heat sources such as a lost child in a wooded area. Just a few years ago this technology would have cost millions of dollars and was rarely available.
During a fugitive apprehension a single deputy is often able to become a perimeter, direct and provide over watch for deputies' on the ground searching. This allows for a safe and quick detention while reducing risk to the public.
Tactical deployments involving dangerous suspects and situations can be monitored in real time from safe distances allowing incident command a complete over view. This allows commanders to make more informed and safer decisions. In several tactical situations UAV's can take the place of wheeled robots allowing for a rapid more complete picture.
We all know of highways being shut down for hours often overnight while critical incidents on roadways have been documented. Crime and traffic collision scenes can now be documented in minutes with 4 K quality video and high resolution pictures. Combined with 3D software a U.A.S. can produce a higher quality product while reducing man hours, saving tax dollars not to mention reopening a highway saving motorist hours of frustration and reducing emissions of idling vehicles. This same work product can be used at crime scenes again allowing crime scenes to be released back to property owners hours quicker than using traditional documentation methods.
Some citizens feel that the use of drones is an intrusion into their privacy. The Denton County Sheriff's Office respects all citizens' constitutional rights and right to privacy. U.A.S. technology will be used in accordance with these rights and privileges and will only be used with judicial authority when required.
As technology progresses the Denton County Sheriff's Office will continue utilize these type resources to create a safer environment for its citizens and employees while being fiscally responsible.
The Denton County Sheriff’s Office has a Hostage/Crisis Negotiations Team (HCNT). The HCNT works in conjunction with the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT), which responds to calls for hostage/barricaded persons and for persons in crisis. The HCNT consists of personnel from various areas of the Denton County Sheriff’s Office. The HCNT members must maintain 40 hours each year of specialized training on top of mandated training required of Texas Peace Officers, to remain a member of the team. The HCNT strives to use its skills to find a peaceful resolution by communicating with persons in crisis.