Law enforcement leaders voice concerns about weaponizing domestic drones

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Leaders in the law enforcement community want people to know that they are against the arming of domestic drones.

Public attention to the privacy and safety issues associated with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, was recently spurred by Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s near 13-hour filibuster of the confirmation of now-CIA Director John Brennan over the drone issue.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) had, however, already approved unmanned aircraft guidelines in the middle of August 2012 that addressed major privacy and safety concerns.

“Equipping the aircraft with weapons of any type is strongly discouraged,” read the IACP guidelines.

“Given the current state of the technology, the ability to effectively deploy weapons from a small [drone] is doubtful,” the guidelines read.

“Further, public acceptance of airborne use of force is likewise doubtful and could result in unnecessary community resistance to the program,” it continued.

The Airborne Law Enforcement Association passed a resolution several weeks later to adopt and promote the guidelines.

“We think it’s a really bad idea,” Airborne Law Enforcement Association Executive Director Steve Ingley told The Daily Caller.

Ingley also spoke at a March 21 seminar in Virginia hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) about the Airborne Law Enforcement Association’s position on surveillance and weaponry regarding drones.

He noted that law enforcement is not interested in prolonged periods of surveillance using unmanned aircraft because of the lack of practicality. Aerial drones are better for 15 – 20 minute durations, he said.

AUVSI spokesperson Melanie Hinton told TheDC that the industry “shares a lot of common ground with stakeholders in this conversation about the safe and responsible integration of [drones] into our skies, including the [American Civil Liberties Union] ACLU.”

The AUVSI’s concern about current legislation favored by privacy advocates, Hinton said, would treat “the use of unmanned aircraft differently than other information-gathering technology, whether it is manned aircraft or other electronic means, and could deny public safety officers a tool to keep them safe as they keep our communities safe.”

“Instead of focusing on how the government collects information, we should focus on the government’s right to collect, use, store, share and delete personal data,” she said.

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