It has officially begun. The use of drones in California law enforcement. Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced Thursday that his agency will begin to utilize drones in their police work. He assured the public that these drones will not be used for general surveillance but instead used to surveil possible arson sites, bomb threats and hostage situations.
The use of drone technology by law enforcement agencies causes concern among many including civil liberties organizations. LA Sheriff Department officials did not use the word ‘drone’ during their announcement but instead praised the possible benefits of the $10,000 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
“The dangers of law enforcement can never be eliminated,” he said. “However, this technology can assist us in reducing the impact of risks on personnel.”
Eight deputies have been trained to fly the device, according to Capt. Jack Ewell of the department’s special operations bureau. The device can remain in the air for 20 minutes and fly up to a mile from the deputy controlling it; but under Federal Aviation Administration rules, Sheriff’s Department personnel must maintain visual contact with the device while flying it, Ewell said.
“The [unmanned aircraft system] will not be used to spy on the public,” McDonnell said, repeating the promise several times. “Our policy forbids using [it] for random surveillance.” – Los Angeles Times
A group of protesters were spotted outside Los Angeles City Hall expressing their concerns over this announcement. According to the protesters, they are worried about police drones being used to conduct unwarranted surveillance on people.
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Featured Image by Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times