The Hayward Police Department’s bid to join a small group of East Bay cities that deploy Unmanned Aerial Systems, commonly known as drones, will be delayed after the Hayward City Council postponed a vote Tuesday night for its purchase.

Hayward city staff pulled the item prior to Tuesday night’s meeting following discussion of whether greater public vetting of the drone purchase is needed and if a specific privacy policy should be crafted prior to discussion of its purchase.

Some councilmembers had urged for the item to be sent to the Hayward PD’s Community Advisory Panel before returning to the council, Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo said.

“We need to have that conversation at the council-level so that the public can comment on about how we manage those types of technologies,” Councilmember Al Mendall said in support of greater public outreach.

While unmanned drones are increasingly cheap and reliable tools for local law enforcement, inherent distrust over the potential for surveillance and rules for data retention remains, particularly among minority groups.

The police department’s desire for deploying drones has been evident for more than a year. Several public outreach efforts occurred in the fall of 2019. In addition, Hayward’s Council Infrastructure Committee offered a recommendation for the City Council to approve the drone purchase back in October 2019, but also urged for greater public discussion and privacy rules.

Hayward PD estimates the initial cost of the drones and up to eight operating licenses would be up to $50,000, an expenditure well within its current budget, according to a staff report.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has deployed unmanned drones for the past five years, but approval for its use was delayed after privacy activists pushed for specific guidelines and policies for its use and retention of data.

Union City and Newark also have drone programs. In some instances, Hayward PD has requested use of each jurisdiction’s drones for incidents in the city.