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Drone-Free LAPD?

By: Phil Shuman, Reporter / Anchor, FOX 11 LA KTTV

4546495_GA drone can fire a missile and take out a terrorist hiding in a cave. Or a drone (operated remotely a continent or two away) can be used to fire missiles against troops on the ground, or any other target. (Actually the military prefers the term ”unmanned aerial vehicle ”).

Back home, John Smith can use a drone (with a high definition camera attached to it) to take pictures of his house, or the beach, or Downtown L.A, or fly it right up to Miley Cyrus’s bedroom window and see what’s going on inside (if the window shades are up) The LAPD could use a drone to monitor a restless crowd, or a hostage taking, or a crime scene, or follow you or your car from your house down the street. They are highly maneuverable, fairly easy to use, inexpensive surveillance platforms. You get the idea.

Drones are here, they’re relatively cheap, and they are becoming more common. I happen to bring this up today because this is the day a group of privacy advocates, lawyers, and just regular concerned folks decided to stage a protest and make speeches outside City Hall demanding that the LAPD immediately halt it’s plan to use drones. That plan, by the way, is very much in its infancy. Earlier this year, as we reported, the Department did receive two ”Draganfly 6″ drones as they’re called, from the Seattle Police Department, at no cost.

Seattle-ites apparently were so upset the Police and the Mayor felt it was better to drop their plans to utilize them ( Flash forward to Los Angeles where the Police said ”okay’, stashed them in a closet somewhere, and is now trying to figure out how to use them to their advantage without antagonizing a certain segment of the public that is always going to be skeptical about police claims that their privacy rights will be respected and a drone would only be used in a specific type of law enforcement situation, say to provide images during a tactical operation, or too help with crowd control or big public events. The Chief has said he understands the public ‘s trust is the most valuable commodity his Department has and would not jeopardize that for a piece of equipment. He says he’d have public hearings, consult the ACLU and have the Police Commission establish guidelines. Today protestors said essentially, that sounds good but in fact we don’t completely trust you, so forget it, quit while you’re ahead. The latest clash between our cherished right to privacy and improvements in technology.