The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has received a go ahead from a civilian oversight panel for a year long test of drones. This development will make the LAPD the largest police department in the country to embrace the use of drone technology. The approval given by the civilian oversight panel has caused mixed feelings in the city as some residents support the initiative while others are opposed to it. Despite several weeks of police officers trying to reassure residents that the police will not abuse the use of drones, there were protests outside LAPD’s glass headquarters against the initiative.
Advocates of the move are of the opinion that the camera-mounted drones would help police officers carry-out effective surveillance of crime prone communities as well as conduct searches without risking their safety. Those who support the police department’s use of drone technology are of the opinion that it would enhance safety and security. On the otherhand, opponents of police use of drones are of the opinion that the sight of drones in Los Angeles neighborhoods would cause a feeling of apprehension and unease as residents would be aware that they are being monitored from above. Although the police commissioners and other top brass police officers have tried to reassure members of the public that the drones would not be equipped with weapons or facial recognition technology, critics are of the opinion that the police cannot be trusted to follow their own rules.
It is however worthy to note that the use of drones by LAPD has been opposed by the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles. The group is of the opinion that the Los Angeles Police Department has a history of well intended innovations which eventually infuriate residents as a result of subsequent abuse of such innovations.
The debate over whether the LAPD should introduce the use of drones for policing began in 2014 when the department received drones from the Seattle Police Department as gifts. However, due to public outcry, the drones were grounded. The police department however decided to re-introduce drones in 2017. Over the past few weeks, the LAPD has worked rigorously on getting public support for the program. The LAPD held several community meetings whereby they tried to persuade residents that the drones would be useful in tracking down criminal suspects and active shooters. During the community meetings, several residents seized the opportunity to express their displeasure of the initiative.