MPD will use $135K to upgrade drones after Pantoja search

Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 6:45 PM CDT
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MIDLAND, Texas (KOSA) - Midland Police Department will mainly spend its Bustin’ for Badges funds on drone upgrades.

Odessa Police, Midland Police and Ector and Midland County Sheriff’s Offices received $135,000 each from the fundraiser.

MPD’s decision to upgrade drones was informed by their May search for Madeline Pantoja.

“During the search for Madeline that did push man, machines, our equipment [and] the batteries to their limits,” MPD Deputy Chief Bryan Rackow said. “We had never prepared for something like that.”

Most of their current drones have 20 to 25 minutes of battery life and operate best during the day. Nonetheless, MPD uses them consistently to map crime scenes and find missing people.

That’s why MPD wants to use the Bustin’ for Badges event to upgrade them.

“Numerous hours of flight time that we spent searching, searching [and] searching and it was the use of a drone that we were able to locate her,” MPD Traffic Officer Jesse Robledo said.

The new drones will have thermal and night vision, Robledo said.

The funds will also upgrade the department’s crisis hostage unit phone, which was originally purchased in 2006.

Currently, the phone used to communicate during a hostage situation is in a box with a long cord that must be hooked up to a van.

The department hopes to upgrade to a wireless system, which could be delivered during negotiations via robot or drone.

“Especially with the drones and the robots introducing, you wouldn’t have to have a SWAT member approach the residence or the building.”

That improves officer safety. The department’s broken gym equipment will also see repairs.

Ector County Sheriff’s will use their funds for ballistic shields, ticket writers and radar guns. Odessa Police will use their funds for protective gear.