Alameda County wants to be the first law enforcement agency in California to acquire a spy drone. The sheriff appealed to the County Board of Supervisors to approve a $31,646 grant so that the sheriff’s office could purchase a small drone. Protesters concerned about invasion of privacy have so far stalled the sheriff’s efforts in obtaining the aircraft, and their objections may cause the police department to scrap the idea altogether. The $31,646 was part of a larger $1.2 million disbursement from the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA). Infowars reported:
“Despite official assurances that the drone would only be used for search and rescue efforts, the Sheriff has previously suggested that the drone could be used to hunt for marijuana farms, and ‘track suspects with guns,’ referring to such operations as ‘proactive policing.’ An internal memo from the Sheriff’s Office dated July 20 also indicated that the department identified uses for the drone, including monitoring barricaded suspects, investigative and tactical surveillance, intelligence gathering, tracking suspicious persons and overseeing large crowd control disturbances.”
The protesters might have defeated this issue for now, but in time, it will resurface, and the police department may end up getting a better drone than the one they want now.
Proponents point out that having a drone is the same as having a chopper, except that drones are cheaper and don’t require a pilot (at least in the vessel itself). So what’s not to like?
It’s true that having a drone would be far more cost effective than a chopper if the drone were actually used like a chopper. Police might use a helicopter when pursuing or searching for a suspect. They’re not used for purely surveillance purposes to look out for “suspicious activity.”
Helicopters are too loud and visible to be used for surveillance. The kind of drone that Alameda County police wanted was a small, 4lb drone that was inaudible at 50 feet and invisible at 100 feet. Equipped with cameras, this drone would be perfect for secret surveillance. No one would ever know they were being watched as long as the drone was high enough. So saying that it would be the same as a chopper is a little silly.
Alameda County might be the first to use this technology in California, but several other law enforcement agencies around the country are already taking advantage of it according to Mercury News:
“About a dozen U.S. law enforcement agencies already have or are using a drone, including the Seattle Police Department. That number is likely to grow considerably because the federal government has given explicit support for the expansion of drone use for law enforcement purposes.”
So the protesters and anti-surveillance activists can protest all they want, but it looks like they’re only prolonging the inevitable. The Feds are pushing drone use, and law enforcement agencies are more than happy to oblige. Before too long, the skies will be full of quiet and invisible drones…for our safety, of course.