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Use of Drones by Seattle Police Strikes a Nerve

November 06, 2012  | 

Photo via Draganfly Innovations Inc.
Photo via Draganfly Innovations Inc.

For years, law-enforcement agencies, including several in the Seattle area, have used helicopters and airplanes for search-and-rescue missions, manhunts, SWAT-team operations, traffic control and car chases.

So why have plans by Seattle police and other enforcement agencies to deploy unmanned drones drawn such intense fire?

The vocal opposition against the drones came into sharp focus two weeks ago during a public meeting in Seattle when members of the Seattle Police Department were shouted down with chants of "No drones!"

In California, plans by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office to deploy drones were met last month with a news conference on the steps of Oakland City Hall where several groups raised privacy concerns.

Police, privacy-rights experts and even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has strong concerns about drones, say the technology is not going away. The question is how to craft thoughtful laws that protect privacy.

Read the full Seattle Times story.


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Jim A @ 11/6/2012 7:24 PM

We would not need drones in the air if there were fewer "drones" on the ground.

Bob @ VA @ 11/7/2012 5:13 AM

I believe that one underlying problem with UAVs is ubiquity. While helos and aircraft are expensive and require highly trained pilots, UAVs are relatively inexpensive and their operation of smaller ones requires relatively little training. UAVs can also be quite stealthy, not an adjective I'd apply to the average police helo. Thus, departments are able to purchase and deploy small UAVs in relatively large numbers. Law-abiding citizens have an expectation of privacy in their fenced back yards, and they don't expect to be monitored or imaged in whatever state of dress that they inhabit their private pool deck or hot tub. We've all seen or heard of scandalous "official" photos or videos making the rounds in a department, on Facebook, or on Youtube.

The latter centers on the other issue, and that is trust. A mere handful of abuse incidents erodes the public's trust.

I believe that departments must go out of their way to build trust with their communities and also provide for strict accountability for the use of UAVs. Perhaps putting a few citizens on a monitoring committee would help in this regard. Abuse of images and videos must be dealt with quickly and effectively.

UAV's can provide valuable tactical intelligence, saving lives in some situations. But they come with serious responsibilities as well.

John @ 11/7/2012 2:03 PM

Big brother monitors us electronically through the use of our social security numbers. You even have to give a s.s.n. for a pre paid credit card or a fishing/hunting license (at least in most states). Now little brother wants to monitor us using camera equipped drones. The drones should not be used in residential areas.

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