Freedom or Free-doom? LAPD and the use of Drones

Freedom or Free-doom? LAPD and the use of Drones

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Daily News

Los Angeles county residents, activist, aviation experts, and authorities are unhappy with the Los Angeles Police department. As of October 17,2017 the LAPD became the nation’s largest police department to deploy an “unmanned aerial vehicles” program. In other words they have received the okay to test fly drones for a year. The Los Angeles police commission voted 3-1 in favor of the program which ignited a frenzy outside of the LAPD’s headquarters. Residents are uneasy due to the fear of military grade technology not only having the ability to freely invade their privacy, but residents also fear the Pilot program will be misused by the police department. Aviation authorities and experts are concerned because drones do not have a good track record in the sky. There have been reports of drones getting too close in range to events, people, air crafts, and even high profile buildings which even included  the white house. Activist and protestors do not trust the police department to use the devices as they are promising they will. The people argue that not only does this violate their civil rights, but it grants the police department to much surveillance power. The pilot program will agitate the balance between safety and privacy. Despite the combative issues law enforcement is facing they will still proceed with the program as planned. 

The Los Angeles police department had a set of donated Draganflyer X6 drones in 2014 which were tossed in their laps from the Seattle police department after they to had the same issue with their residents not trusting the drones. Those two drones were destroyed before they could be used. LAPD chief Charlie Beck stated back in 2014 “I will not sacrifice public support for a piece of police equipment.” I couldn’t help but ask what changed Chief Charlie Beck’s reasoning in the three year time span? Luckily my question did not go unanswered for long. Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill who was the only one to vote against the program asked Beck what changed since 2014 he went into the fact that there are other police departments successfully using the tool then he proceeded to go into detail about what he feels is a “ much more robust feedback mechanism” this time around. Im sure you can imagine the energy his comment brought to the room. 

The proposal of the “Pilot program” states the drones will “help to resolve dangerous, high risk tactical situations and improve situational awareness capabilities during natural disasters, and catastrophic events.”  According to police commission’s vice president Matt Johnson there has been many modifications made to the rules of the program due to the negative feedback received. Some of the latest rules include, only SWAT officers will have clearance to fly the drones, facial recognition, and weapons will be prohibited, and lastly but certainly not least the drones will be used under special circumstances in which each use must be approved by a high ranking official before it can go airborne. The use will also be documented in a report whether it was approved or declined. Before the police department made their proposal in January officers had to go through very strenuous trainings and classes on how to properly use the devices. There have been several press conferences held, much time spent on debates, and many documents filed before the police department could reach what they feel is a milestone in the safety of not only civilians but officers as well. 

As of now the decision has been made and it is standing strong. the test pilot program will last for a year and once the full year has been completed the commissioners will review the success of the program and ultimately make a decision on whether or not they feel the program has done more help then harm.