Police group urges restraint on drone use

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Police agencies using unmanned aircraft should make sure the aircraft are highly visible and unarmed, according to recommendations (.pdf) from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Although high-visibility paint schemes could undermine some surveillance activities such as serving high-risk warrants, the IACP notes that most such activities are conducted covertly, at night and potentially from a stand-off position. And adding weapons to an unmanned aerial vehicle would be difficult given current technology, and unlikely to gain public acceptance if technology improves, the group says.

"From enhanced officer safety by exposing unseen dangers, to finding those most vulnerable who may have wandered away from their caregivers, the potential benefits are irrefutable," IACP says. "However, privacy concerns are an issue that must be dealt with effectively if a law enforcement agency expects the public to support the use of UA by their police."

Police should obtain search warrants if they expect to collect evidence of wrongdoing or "intrude upon reasonable expectations of privacy," according to the document. They should destroy images taken by airborne cameras that are not required for ongoing investigations or training, the group recommends, with retained images being made available to the public.

The IACP also recommends using reverse 9-1-1 calls to alert neighbors that the drones will be overhead, when practicable.

Additionally, it calls for several layers of accountability within police departments for drone use.

Julie Bird is a freelance reporter.

For more:
- download the recommendations (.pdf)

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