When it comes to reconstructing an accident scene, Det. Flaude Dillon describes it as deconstructing a puzzle.
Dillon was one of the first in the Logansport Police Department to undergo training as an accident reconstructionist. It's a role he's served in since 2017.
He said the first step of any accident reconstruction starts with pictures.
"We walk around the scene to see what it all entails," he said. "Then we start marking key pieces of evidence."
The next step involves assigning different colors to the cars involved in an accident.
The corresponding color is then used to differentiate each cars' tire tracks on the road and in the grass. Afterward, the tracks are measured.
Dillon said the most important thing to look for at a scene are the small pieces of evidence.
"A lot of time those can be a major clue," he said.
Drones prove valuable
When it came to the LPD acquiring drones, that was also because of Dillon's efforts.
Thanks to Dillon, the LPD now has two drones. And while they use the drones to help search for missing people and suspects, they also are valuable in accident investigations.
Using a drone, Dillon can program the device to fly a specific route and take pictures of the scene at set intervals.
"It gives us a vantage point that we haven't had in a past," he said. "Drones kind of go hand-in-hand with crash reconstruction."
Thanks to a partnership that Indiana police departments have with Purdue University, the LPD can then upload the drone's pictures into an online portal. The university will then create 3D images of the scene that can help with the investigation.
"When we started with the drone program, Purdue was offering to do the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license for police departments," Dillon said. "It blossomed into them being able to do 3D rendering as well."
Dillon said he had never flown a drone when he pitched the idea to LPD administrators.
"I had to do a lot of research, especially with the FAA licensing," he said. "Luckily, I found some people in our area who are very knowledgeable about drones and I lean on them when I have questions and am just trying to figure out how it all works. That was the biggest hurdle I had to go through."
The LPD can also use their drones in Miami County, however, they had to register them with Grissom Airforce Base and must alert the base tower when they are flying in the southern section of the county.
Dillon credits the LPD administrators for being open to new ideas. He took three courses over six weeks to learn how to reconstruct accident scenes and continues to take classes to stay on top of best practices in the field.
When it came to the drones, he not only had to pitch their use to his administrators but also the cost.
"If you want something and you can justify it, the admins I work for are pretty much behind you," he said. "Our admins are very open-minded to new things."
"Detective Dillon is very passionate about his job," said Chief of Police Travis Yike. "His ideas to assist the development of the department can be seen in the accident reconstruction and drone program. He uses both to assist the officers and himself in the job."
While Dillon is passionate, he'd probably prefer not having to reconstruct accidents. He said many accidents in the community often occur because drivers aren't paying attention.
"Pay attention to the road signs, especially here in Logansport and surrounding areas," he said. "There have been a lot of changes to the highways and to the roadways. Pay attention to those lane markers, to the road signs and follow them."
He's seen plenty of bad crashes because drivers fail to see or acknowledge the signs.
"Those are there to help protect you," Dillon said. "So, take that extra second to look right, to look left and it could ultimately make the difference."
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