April 1, 2018 - The Newport Police Department will begin the implementation of the Sugar Glider to our patrol division today. In cooperation with an Australian law enforcement training facility in Sydney, NPD received fifteen sugar gliders for use in patrol. Officers have been trained in the utilization of sugar gliders as a tool for the purpose of surveillance, as well as investigative and tracking techniques.
The sugar glider is an excellent substitute for drones. While the cost is relatively the same, the sugar glider is preferred because of its compact size, weight, and immediate access, compared to the inconvenience of a drone, which must be packed in a carrying case in the trunk of the patrol vehicle, and require manual remote control by the officer. The patrol sugar glider has received extensive training before being assigned to an officer, as well as paired training with its handler. Officers also learned the skills necessary for the care and feeding of the sugar gliders.
Each sugar glider will be equipped with a sophisticated micro camera. The camera will continuously transmit real-time images to the patrol officer via an app installed on the officer’s smart phone. In addition, the footage from the sugar glider is instantly archived and stored on massive hard drives at City Hall, allowing analysts to review it later if necessary.
Sometimes referred to as “pocket pets”, the sugar glider is small enough for an officer to carry in a pocket, and is lightweight at an average of four ounces. The sugar glider does not add the burden of another piece of cumbersome, heavy equipment to the existing gear an officer wears on a duty belt. The belt and bulletproof vest can weigh up to a total of 30 pounds.
The sugar gliders acquired by the Newport Police Department have each been trained to return to their assigned officers after flight by using visual, voice, electronic device command, and complex chemical odors.
The sugar glider is characterized by its gliding membrane, which extends from its forelegs to its hind legs, one on each side of its body. Sugar gliders can steer by moving their limbs and adjusting the tension of their gliding membrane; for example, to turn left, a sugar glider will lower its left forearm below its right.
While used by many law enforcement agencies in Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, the Newport Police Department is the first in the U.S. to utilize a marsupial in their patrol division.
Because sugar gliders are highly social animals, NPD will host a Sugar Glider Social Hour on April 31st at 10:00 a.m. at the Newport Municipal Petting Zoo to introduce them to the public.