Connecticut Lawmakers Vote To Give Police Drones With Guns

from the Death-From-Above-2017 dept

Connecticut's legislature has managed to back into legalizing law enforcement use of weaponized drones. In writing a new drone law, lawmakers banned the use of weaponized drones, but made an exception for police. It's not a case of "Hey, let's give the cops weaponized drones!" as much as it is a case of not wanting law enforcement to be unable to have that option.

As for how police will or won't be able to deploy weaponized drones, that's still up in the air (I am so sorry):

Details on how law enforcement could use drones with weapons would be spelled out in new rules to be developed by the state Police Officer Standards and Training Council. Officers also would have to receive training before being allowed to use drones with weapons.

All well and good, but police officers also receive training in things like civil liberties and proper force deployment, and we see daily how much good that has done. The more encouraging parts of the bill -- one that would see Connecticut join North Dakota in police use of weaponized drones -- are the reporting requirements and warrant stipulation.

It would require police to get a warrant before using a drone, unless there are emergency circumstances or the person who is the subject of the drone use gives permission. It also would require police to report yearly on how often they use drones and why, and create new crimes and penalties for criminal use of drones, including voyeurism.

Unfortunately, Connecticut's bill isn't as limited as North Dakota's. North Dakota's forbids the use of lethal weapons, but it's easy to see some less-than-lethal rounds becoming much more lethal when fired from a few hundred feet in the air. This bill would allow lethal force to be deployed from police drones. One lawmaker sees a pretty rosy future for airborne police weaponry.

"Obviously this is for very limited circumstances," said Republican state Sen. John Kissel, of Enfield, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee that approved the measure Wednesday and sent it to the House of Representatives. "We can certainly envision some incident on some campus or someplace where someone is a rogue shooter or someone was kidnapped and you try to blow out a tire."

The problem with tools like these is they lend themselves to mission creep and abuse. Certainly, no law enforcement agency wants to take home the record for "First Civilian Killed by a Drone," but once the seal's broken, lethal force becomes easier and easier to deploy.

And it's not as though this is a necessary step to take. Law enforcement often complains about being left behind in the tech race, but it's not as though criminals are taking to the air and endangering citizens with weaponized drones. This would put the police ahead of everybody and move them one step closer to being a military force. And there's no warrant in existence that grants police the license to kill -- only to apprehend.

But that might be good enough for airborne Drug Warriors, etc. who believe many criminal acts are punishable by death, should the suspect be unwilling to immediately surrender himself into custody. We've seen plenty of senseless death and destruction stemming from overuse of vehicle pursuits. This is the next step: flying guns shooting at suspects as they flee through "civilian" traffic. Law enforcement officers aren't great shots with both feet planted on the ground. Giving them a gun in the air is a bad idea.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 6:13pm

    above the law

    All Americans are supposed to be equal-before-the-law.

    If something is illegal for normal citizens to do -- it automatically should be illegal for government employees to do.

    Think about that. It goes to the very core of representative government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 6:34pm

    Will it be considered an illegal search when you look out your window and see an armed drone with a camera looking back into your home on the 3rd floor? If a cop came to my windows at ground level with a gun aimed into my home, I wouldnt feel safe closing the curtains on him/her.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Wyrm (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 6:51pm

    "... or the person who is the subject of the drone use gives permission."

    I can imagine the situation there: "sir, do you allow us to shoot you with an armed drone?"

    "And there's no warrant in existence that grants police the license to kill -- only to apprehend."

    No need for a warrant when you know that no judge will find a cop guilty of murder.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 7:02pm

    Dallas Sniper killed by robot

    Wasn't the killing of the sniper in Dallas the first police use of a drone to kill someone here? A drone is a remotely operated device. Flying isn't a requirement.

    It is just another ratchet in the power being removed from the people of the police state of America.

    If your police department finds itself in a situation where they think they need remote controlled weapon platforms, they need to step back and let someone else handle it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 7:02pm

    ---Certainly, no law enforcement agency wants to take home the record for "First Civilian Killed by a Drone,"---

    Are you sure about that? I bet more than 50% of law enforcement would actually herald it stating that they were able to use advanced technology to keep officers safe so they can easily put down... erm criminals... from a position of safety, yea that's right!

    Like the first AC said... the police should not be allowed to use anything a civilian cannot use. Otherwise you just created a work around of the posse comitatus act. Which, is just exactly what they have been working for.

    Only a corrupt government sees the need to give its forces an armed advantage over its civilians.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 7:11pm

    Re:

    The government clearly is afraid of its citizens. We hear over and over that they were afraid that x would happen, and absolutely had to use lethal force to ease that fear. We need to stop hiring cowards and enforce the rights violations regardless of the person being on one side or the other of the "thin blue line"(of hate).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 7:27pm

    Re: above the law

    Relax. With ever-increasing battery energy density, soon the drones can be launched from a central location rather than by hand from a nearby squad car. No local human assistance required.

    That means they can be controlled by outsourced labor in another country. Heck, people sitting in California have been tele-killing people via drones in Afghanistan and Yemen for years!

    Outsourced drone pilots will be far cheaper than police officers, there'll be no police union, and they're easy to replace with another anonymous hire if they screw up. It makes deflecting the blame in a wrongful death a lot easier too.

    They might even locate the drone "call centers" in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to provide jobs as part of the rebuilding process. Abundant cheap labor; folks who have already been taught the concepts and potential of drone operations.

    The outsourced drone cops won't be normal citizens *or* government employees. Equality problem solved.

    Hope This Helps!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Nathan F (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 7:59pm

    Blow out a tire on a fleeing vehicle? What the hell kind of drones are they planning on using that can carry the weight of a weapon powerful enough to put down a suspect (shoot out a tire) and keep up with a car doing 50+mph? Are they going to have a Predator or Reaper circling around the incident zone with a stabilized gyro rifle mount, oh wait.. military surplus sold off cheap to law enforcement agencies says yes they will be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 8:04pm

    The less government the better

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Remember, the goal of this legislation was to stop murder robots from being used.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 8:09pm

    Re:

    Your honor, I believed the suspect to be activating a drone with a gun and my drone was afraid for its life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 8:30pm

    While gun-toting copters still seem a bit impractical, I can certainly see them being used as conveyances for chemical weapons like tear gas canisters or for explosives. Who cares if it destroys the drone in yhe process? It's the taxpayers' money being wasted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Bergman (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 8:51pm

    Re:

    If that drone were still playing peeping time in the space of time it took me to load a shotgun, it would cease to be a problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Bergman (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 8:51pm

    Re: Re:

    Peeping Tom* -- WTB Edit Button!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Bergman (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 8:52pm

    Re: Re:

    You can build a short range, directional EMP device fairly cheaply. Forget see something, say something -- it might well be time for see something, zap something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Bergman (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 8:53pm

    Re: The less government the better

    True. Unfortunately, the firepole to hell is electroplated in lobbyist dollars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 9:26pm

    Just like police attack dogs, it's easy to imagine that armed drones will be legally classified as fullfledged "law enforcement officers" should anyone ever decide to shoot one, which guarantees a lengthy prison sentence for anyone who dares to engage in self-defense against such non-human predators.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Mike-2 Alpha (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 11:48pm

    Re:

    "Yes, your honour. We did deploy our drone without applying for a warrant, but it was for the purpose of surveilling our Confidential Informant.

    Through the use of the drone, we followed the CI to the meeting. At that point, the drone's cameras allowed the officers to observe the suspect reaching for what they believed to be a weapon.

    Believing their informant's life to be in immediate danger, the officers activated the drone's weapon and engaged. The suspect was struck four times in the chest and head with small arms fire and died at the scene."

    And that's only the first way to skin the "permission to use" cat that I thought of off the top of my head.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    David, 5 Apr 2017 @ 12:49am

    Armed police drones? What can go wrong?

    Let me correct: what can't go wrong? Or rather: what did go wrong?

    At least now I know why the U.S. sigil animal is an eagle: when you have a completely derailed train hurtling into an abyss, it's really time to crank out some large wings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 1:55am

    Mission Creeps

    "...no law enforcement agency wants to take home the record for 'First Civilian Killed by a Drone'..."

    Uhm, have you met police?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Apr 2017 @ 3:23am

    "Giving them a gun in the air is a bad idea. "

    Just wait for the lasers! In any case it seems blue lives need not to fear anymore, they can kill at will without ever being threatened!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 3:36am

    Might as well paint a bullseye on themselves

    Maybe this is just Connecticut's way of attracting more organized crime business. They just need a motto, hack our police drones, kill your enemies from a distance and we'll take the blame.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    David, 5 Apr 2017 @ 3:50am

    Re: Might as well paint a bullseye on themselves

    But you need exigent circumstances or a warrant for hacking a police drone. One rule for everyone and in the darkness bind them... wait, wrong script.

    But then the whole idea of police killer drones has "wrong script" written all over it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 4:13am

    Kinetic energy

    "North Dakota's forbids the use of lethal weapons, but it's easy to see some less-than-lethal rounds becoming much more lethal when fired from a few hundred feet in the air."

    A drone free-falling from that height IS a lethal weapon, something that is consistently overlooked in all these analyses. And a drone accelerating downward under power could do a lot of damage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 5:55am

    Re:

    I was actually looking at that statement and just questioning it because we already saw "first civilian killed by robot" and the agency seemed rather proud of it. Why would "first civilian killed by drone" be any different? One was on wheels and the other can fly, so what? Dead is dead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 5 Apr 2017 @ 6:17am

    I think I'll stay in

    More ways for the police to accidentally (or deliberately) kill people. It's like giving them Nintendo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 7:28am

    Re:

    What about that seems impractical, have you seen what AI flight controlled drones can do?
    http://robohub.org/video-throwing-and-catching-an-inverted-pendulum-with-quadrocopters/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    me, 5 Apr 2017 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    yup. zap every damn one of them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 8:35am

    how about fixing damn potholes first?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    sigalrm (profile), 5 Apr 2017 @ 8:54am

    Re: Re:

    Don't forget the "plain sight" and "public spaces" arguments, too.

    "Your honor, during a routine urban flight training operation, the drugs were clearly visible from a publicly accessible space outside the 10th floor window."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    sigalrm (profile), 5 Apr 2017 @ 9:00am

    Re: Re: above the law

    Also, assuming an otherwise unmarked drone, local data storage could be configured to automatically be wiped if the drone were to be shutdown/disabled in an uncontrolled manner, eliminating any onboard proof as to which agency was operating the device.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Chris Brand, 5 Apr 2017 @ 10:17am

    Just like the tanks

    Those tanks the police use were "for very limited circumstances", too. But it always seems like such a waste to have them just sitting around unused...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Would you really want to set off an EMP in your house?

    If so, guess you wouldn't mind having to replace your TV, refrigerator, any computers, cell phones, dishwasher, probably your heating and cooling panel, your electrical box and other fun stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 10:52am

    Yeah, it is a story, but why. Practically speaking, a weaponized drone isn't really a reality. The military and CIA face a shortage of drone qualified pilots, where would they get people to fly them?

    Plus, one would imagine that the police wouldn't use the same type of drones as the military/CIA. Not like they will be targeting crooks with missiles. Shooting an individual person with a bullet is a little more difficult than shooting a building or vehicle with a missile.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Annonymouse, 5 Apr 2017 @ 11:17am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 5th, 2017 @ 10:52am

    I have already seen goober8and cleetus video on YouTube demonstrating handguns on consumer grade quadcopters. It aint that hard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Annonymouse, 5 Apr 2017 @ 11:19am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 5th, 2017 @ 10:52am

    I have already seen goober and cleetus videos on YouTube demonstrating handguns on consumer grade quadcopters. It aint that hard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 5 Apr 2017 @ 11:24am

    I suspect this idea won't fly for two simple reasons:

    Federal aviation law and recently enacted drone law both forbid weapons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 12:09pm

    Re:

    You are aware we have drones capable of launching missile strikes? They're not talking about Hobby Lobby quadcopters.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. icon
    Nathan F (profile), 5 Apr 2017 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes. Those are military grade drones. Which I jokingly said that LEOs have access to because military surplus equipment gets sold to them cheaply.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 2:30pm

    Uh yeah, what could go wrong?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2017 @ 7:02am

    Re: Dallas Sniper killed by robot

    So they should wait until the Avengers show up?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 7 Apr 2017 @ 5:33am

    Re: Re: Re:

    SWAT team all over your soon-to-be fried ass in 3...2...1...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 7 Apr 2017 @ 5:35am

    Re: Re: Dallas Sniper killed by robot

    Couldn't they have tranked him?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2017 @ 6:20am

    Re:

    Well if the drones get lasers, then I guess the dreams of lasers on sharks will not ever happen because they would use a drone instead. :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. identicon
    Philly Bob, 7 Apr 2017 @ 11:59am

    Anyone watch the show APB?
    It's not far off...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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