Alameda County residents cite privacy concerns, police abuse as officials seek to use domestic drones
- Year: 2012
- Length: 3:09 minutes (2.88 MB)
- Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR)
Following passage of federal legislation earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved dozens of organizations who want to use the unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. Applicants include Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, police departments and universities. While the federal agency continues to work on testing and regulations before opening up airspace for drones in 2015, law enforcement agencies in cities across the country are taking steps to add drones to their arsenals of equipment. In California, the Alameda County Sheriff may get a federal grant to purchase the high tech spying machines. But residents there are pushing back, saying the drones threaten privacy rights and add to the increasing militarization of police departments. Rachel Herzing is a member of the organization Critical Resistance which has fought against Oakland's gang injunctions. She gathered with other critics Thursday in front of Oakland’s City Hall.
“I’m very concerned that we continue to see more military equipment, more military practices, more military personnel employed in local law enforcement.”
Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern says the drones won’t be equipped with weapons like rubber bullets and tear gas, although that was offered by the manufacturers. But it would carry video surveillance equipment. Speaking this morning on KPFA’s Up Front with John Hamilton, department spokesperson J.D. Nelson said adding an unmanned vehicle could benefit local law enforcement.
“It’s an eye in the sky so when you have a specific event that you’re in need of getting a look over a wall, over a house, over whatever into a field, it’s a valuable tool. Much like we use the robots in the bomb squad world or in the swat team world. We have seven robots on the Sheriff’s office. And I understand people’s concern. You say the word drone and it sounds pretty terrible, but when you say it looks more like a remote-controlled helicopter, people get a different perspective.”
But many have concerns about when and how the department will use the surveillance drones and who will ensure privacy rights aren’t violated. Linda Lye is a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California:
“It’s interesting to me that this is coming on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Oakland Police Department’s brutal crackdown on Occupy Oakland…elected civilian leaders and not simply dictated by the existence of outside grant money.”
The ACLU has sent a public records request to the Sheriff’s department asking for information about why drones are needed, how much they will cost and specifically how they will be used.