There will be new eyes in the skies over Fourth of July gatherings this year.

A new state law is in effect that allows police to fly drones over some public gatherings.

Perched on a rooftop overlooking Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade last year, a shooter had a clear line of sight – but officers below likely couldn’t see him.

Sgt. Ari Briskman is with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s hard to say what could’ve or would’ve been done but certainly a drone in the sky for that event would have given Highland Park police and other agencies a better view of that area,” Briskman said. “Especially given the shooter was on a rooftop.” 

That’s where police drones come in.

A change in a decade-old surveillance law means police will now be able to patrol many public gatherings from the air, providing a broader view of potential threats below.

Detective Kyle Brasewicz is one of several drone operators for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

 “You get up in the air and just have a large overview of everything going on,” he said. “We can zoom in on an area and easily see a rooftop, thinks like that we normally wouldn’t be able to.  Then we can call out to other officers if there’s something that might need some attention.”     

Long Grove, home to a cherished chocolate festival and year-round gatherings, is one of several communities that will get extra attention with drone deployments.

The new law includes some guardrails. For example, police can’t use drones to surveil political protests or demonstrations. They can only be used during outdoor events like a parade, a concert, the Taste of Chicago or a race. And nearly all of the video collected has to be deleted soon after the event unless there’s reasonable suspicion a crime occurred.

 “We’re not allowed to weaponize drones and we’re not allowed to use facial recognition with the drones,” Briskman said.

Drones now an added eye in the sky for cops protecting people on the ground.