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‘Drone-Free LAPD’ demanded by activists

Stop LAPD Spying was one of the groups at Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, to demand that the city prohibit the use of drones by the LAPD. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Los Angeles Daily News)

Waving a plastic mock-up of a drone and chanting “Drone-Free LAPD” and “No Drones in L.A.,” a group of about two dozen community activists Thursday called on Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Police Department to reject the donation of two drones to the city.

“The LAPD was given these as a gift from Seattle some months ago, and we want to voice our opposition to them,” said Hamid Khan, organizer of Stop LAPD Spying, one of several groups that demonstrated on the steps of City Hall.

Khan released a letter he sent to the mayor asking him to reject the offer of the drones because of what he called the department’s history of spying on individuals.

“LAPD has a long history of lies, brutality and violence against communities,” Khan said. “We should not be further militarizing the Police Department.”

The two hovercrafts — called Draganflyer X6s — are currently at a secure location in the custody of the federal government until the LAPD develops a policy on how they would be used and if it even wants the drones.

Garcetti is waiting to see what police representatives decide, said spokesman Yusef Robb. “Until the department completes its research and the Police Commission recommends a policy on it, there is nothing to do,” he said. “The mayor is waiting to see what they recommend.”

The Seattle Police Department, which purchased the crafts in 2012 through an $82,000 grant, decided to hand off the drones after residents there rallied against the infringement of their privacy rights.

“We are developing protocols, procedures and limitations on when and how they could be used,” said LAPD spokesman Cmdr. Andrew Smith. “We are still having a dialogue on it, and anything we do would have to be approved by the Police Commission.”

Smith said the department is thinking of using the devices when SWAT teams are called out in hostage or barricade situations but added that “the plan is very preliminary, and we are not going to compromise public confidence to use these devices.”