California law enforcement moves to buy drones, draws controversy


UAV set up for Wylye intersection. QinetiQ group Since Congress passed legislation in February ordering the Federal Aviation Administration to fast-track the approval of unmanned aerial vehicles—more colloquially known as drones—for use by law enforcement agencies, police and sheriff departments across the country have been scrambling to purchase the smaller, unarmed cousins of the Predator and Reaper drones which carry out daily sorties over Afghanistan, Yemen, and other theaters of operation. Alameda County in California has become one of the central battlegrounds over the introduction of drones to domestic police work. Earlier this year , Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern raised the hackles of local civil libertarians (and there are quite a few of those in the county, which encompasses Berkeley and Oakland) by declaring his intention to purchase a drone to assist with “emergency response.” According to Ahern, Alameda Sheriff’s personnel first tested a UAV in fall 2011 and gave a public demonstration of the machine’s usefulness for emergency responses during the Urban Shield SWAT competition in late October. Were Alameda County to purchase a drone, it would set a precedent in California, which has long been an innovator in law enforcement tactics: from SWAT teams (pioneered in Delano and Los Angeles) to anti-gang tactics such as civil injunctions. The first documented incident of a drone being used to make an arrest in the United States occurred in North Dakota in June 2011, when local police received assistance from an unarmed Predator B drone that belonged to US Customs and Border Protection . The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration have also reportedly used drones for domestic investigations. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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California law enforcement moves to buy drones, draws controversy


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