Debate Sparked Over LAPD’s Interest in Using Drones

The possible use of drones by the Los Angeles Police Department continued to be debated Saturday, the day after the department announced it had obtained two devices.

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LAPD Spokesman Andrew Smith spoke to KTLA on May 30, 2014, about the department’s interest in using drones. (Credit: KTLA)

The Seattle Police Department gave the LAPD two drones after abandoning efforts to use them when Seattle residents rejected the idea, both the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times reported.

The president of the L.A. Police Commission tweeted both departments and an NBC reporter on Friday stating, “No decision made. Public process and other input to Los Angeles Police Commission first.”

If approved, the drones would be used to assist during potentially dangerous situations, LAPD Spokesman Andrew Smith told KTLA.

“The plan is to see if they would have an application for us with our SWAT teams in a high-risk situations, barricaded suspect or some type of hostage situation where we could use them to get information about what’s happening inside the location without risking the officers’ lives or without putting anyone else in the public at risk,” Smith said.

If approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, the LAPD planned to move forward with with seeking other permissions, Smith said.

“Then we have to listen to what the public says, listen to what the civil libertarian-type groups say, listen to what the police commission wants before we even consider whether we’re going to use them or not,” Smith said.

Since drones were smaller and cheaper than other aircrafts they could be used secretly or for minor investigations, the ACLU Executive Director Hector Villagra stated.

“The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) questions whether the marginal benefits to SWAT operations justify the serious threat to privacy an LAPD drone program could pose,” Villagra stated.

The organization, which claims to advocate for individual’s rights, also “applauds” the LAPD’s efforts in transparency by publicizing efforts to use drones.

KTLA’s Chris Wolfe contributed to this report. 


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