City Of Seattle Finds New Police Drones Might Be Too Invasive; Los Angeles Police Say, 'Hey, We'll Take Them!'

from the 'we-already-have-a-completely-lousy-relationship-with-the-public!' dept

Los Angeles law enforcement agencies’ attitude towards surveillance has usually been, “sure, why not?” Whatever L.A. law enforcement can’t collect with Stingray devices or secretly-deployed aircraft carrying clusters of high-powered cameras, it hopes to obtain with crowd-sourced surveillance apps and predictive policing. (This is only true of public-facing surveillance, however. Recording devices targeting officers have been tampered with, removed and deliberately broken.)

Since the public’s input has never been high on the LAPD’s or LASD’s (Sheriff’s Dept.) priority list, it makes perfect sense that it would take ownership of surveillance drones deemed to be too controversial to deploy in Seattle, Washington. (via slashdot)

On Friday, the department announced that it had acquired two “unmanned aerial vehicles” as gifts from the Seattle Police Department.

The Draganflyer X6 aircraft, which resemble small helicopters, are each about 3 feet wide and equipped with a camera, video camera and infrared night-vision capabilities.

Citizens of Seattle booted the two drones — purchased with federal funds — off the police force earlier this year.

Saying police need to stay focused on “community building,” Mayor Mike McGinn has pulled the plug on the department’s controversial drone program even before it got off the ground.

The announcement came one day after the city held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance outlining restrictions for the department’s drone program, which drew vocal opposition from numerous citizens concerned with intrusions into their privacy.

Not everyone was happy with the Mayor’s decision. One council member, Bruce Harrell (who chairs a public safety committee), was disappointed the mayor listened to his constituents, calling it the “easy way out.”

The LAPD now has the drones and it seems to have at least picked up a little on the public’s increasing hostility towards pervasive surveillance. LAPD officials have been stressing how seldom its new toys will be used.

[D]epartment officials were at pains to make it clear the LAPD doesn’t intend to use the new hardware to keep watch from above over an unsuspecting public. If they’re used at all, the remotely controlled aircraft will be called on only for “narrow and prescribed uses” that will be made clear to the public, the statement said.

Noble aims often accompany the arrival of new technology, but those are often discarded as mission creep sets in. The LAPD claims this will be limited to incidents like hostage situations but once you have the technology in hand, it’s hard to resist using it for lower priority situations.

Much of what’s being said simply sounds like a slightly panicked attempt to distance itself from the actions of the LA Sheriff’s Department, whose spokesman indelicately noted that presumably the public wouldn’t be thrilled to learn it was operating “Big Brother” overhead, so it just decided to keep the operation a secret until the test runs had been completed. So, grains of salt and all that when it comes to the LAPD promising anything privacy-related. After all, this is the same law enforcement agency that recently declared that every single one of the millions of license plate photos in its database were “relevant” to criminal investigations — both those currently ongoing and any number of still-theoretical investigations that might be mounted in the future.

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Comments on “City Of Seattle Finds New Police Drones Might Be Too Invasive; Los Angeles Police Say, 'Hey, We'll Take Them!'”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Come again?

Not everyone was happy with the Mayor’s decision. One council member, Bruce Harrell (who chairs a public safety committee), was disappointed the mayor listened to his constituents, calling it the “easy way out.”

So actually following the will of the people who elected you, and who you are supposed to represent and serve, is the ‘easy way out’ to him… that’s got to be one of the most blatant ‘We are the rulers, you are the ruled, you obey us, not the other way around’ statements I’ve seen in a long time.

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Come again?

Well, in fact, yes. This country was founded upon the principle that we must protect the dumb masses from themselves, hence we have a representative constitutional republic.

If we listened to the supposed ‘will of the people’ then much of LA would be like Santa Monica, with even the simplest building, taking literally decades to negotiate, simply because some unemployed stooge is yelling the loudest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Manned helicopters are extremely expensive to operate which necessitates that they be used in a targeted fashion when the situation is appropriate. Not so much with drones. No one has a problem with manned helicopters because of this, just like no one had a problem with other forms of surveillance when it was the technological and cost meant that it was always targeted.

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