NYPD Raises Public Concern About its Drone Program

One of the most dangerous professional fields is that of law enforcement. It is a field that highly depends on technological advancements. One such technology that law enforcement agencies have become very fond of is drone technology. Several agencies and departments across the United States are now using drone technology to map out crime scenes, survey large events, and help with search and rescue missions. Drones offer a number of ways for law enforcement to improve their day to day life, but not everyone is happy to see them being used. Many members of the public fear that the drones will be used to spy on civilians.

The NYPD recently announced plans for a new drone program. They want to train 29 officers to fly 14 unmanned drones. Their plan however, raised a lot of eyebrows. People are not certain that a police department which has been known to illegally spy on its citizens should be allowed to use such technology. The potential for misuse in their opinion is simply too high.

Senior police officials stated that their drones will only be used for specific purposes. The officials were quick to point out that the drones would not be used for police patrols, enforcing traffic laws, or warrant-less surveillance. Another key note is that none of the drones will be equipped with weapons.

Despite all of these assurances, people are still not convinced. Lawyers who went over the proposed drone policies noted that the programs do not do enough to prevent the drones from being misused. The lawyers stated that people should be alarmed by how wide the police’s surveillance net is growing because they already have security cameras in public places that  can read license plates. The police department could have helped to ease people’s fears by disclosing more information about how often the drones are used and why, but they refused. They only disclosed aggregate data from their drone program which is not very accurate.

One part of the policy states that drones can be used in any public safety situation that the Department Chief deems necessary. This means that the police can use drones whenever they want and with close to no public oversight. Such power in the hands of the police has often led to minority neighborhoods being the victims of overly aggressive policing.

Several police departments have implemented drone programs without the approval of local authorities. They purchase the drones using federal funds or donations from private citizens which allow them to skirt around the proper procedure. The NYPD is actually one of the few departments which went through the proper channels before flying their drones.

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