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Sheriff Proposes Rules For Use of Drones In Alameda County

Pledges not to arm them and to keep cameras focused on crime scenes to "minimize the inadvertent collection of data on uninvolved persons."


Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern has drafted policies covering his plans to use aerial drones in crime, fire, rescue and disaster operations.

Patch first reported on the Sheriffs' plans to use drones last October.

That prospect aroused opposition from civil libertarians who fear that drones will snoop on law-abiding citizens and shred Fourth Amendment guarantees against being searched without a warrant. 

Sheriff Ahern's plans were important enough to prompt an editorial in the New York Times warning that the rules governing the deployment of drones "should guarantee the strongest protection of privacy under what promises to be a galaxy of new eyes in the sky."

The Sheriff's proposals begin with the assertion that his goal is "the safe, efficient and lawful operation" of drones or small unmanned aerial vehicles -- sUAVs as he calls them.

In the realm of protecting civil liberties the policy would:

  • set up a website to allow citizens to file concerns or complaints
  • train drone operators to focus their cameras on areas central to their missions to "minimize the inadvertent collection of data about uninvolved persons or places"
  • refrain from equipping sUAVs with weapons.

The Sheriff says drones would be used for missions including:

  • collecting evidence where a warrant issued or there is probable cause of a felony being committed
  • in hostage situations, bomb threats, hazardous material spills, apprehending dangerous suspects and documenting crime scenes
  • in response to fires, natural disasters or search-and-rescue missions
  • during training operations

Just as President Obama controls the use of drones in life-and-death situations overseas, Sheriff Ahern proposes that law enforcement uses of sUAVs in Alameda County get the highest scrutiny.

"All flights will be approved in advance by the Sheriff or his/her designee (at least the rank of captain)," the policy says.

What do you think of the use of drones by law enforcement? Leave a comment below.


David February 12, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Government should learn to stop this reckless spending of our tax dollars for their own personal desires.
50 years here February 13, 2013 at 08:59 PM
David, and Mike S: Actually I think David is right on track and well spoken directly to the subject matter
Warren April 18, 2013 at 10:38 PM
There is a huge difference between peeping tom individuals flying drones, airplanes, or using video cameras, and the government doing it. Anyone who tries to argue otherwise is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. The government has the power and the resources that no individual possesses. They have the power to collect massive amounts of data and tie it directly to you. they have the power arrest and to prosecute based on information that they gather. How is this even remotely equivalent to an individual who likes to watch people from their "private drone"? It's not. The images and data gathered by the government are daily being centralized and available for every conceivable (and inconceivable) purpose. Once gathered, this information is passed on to every agency that has a computer terminal. Paranoid? No, it's exactly where we are going. With every "little" addition to the surveillance state we whittle one more sliver of our liberty. I don't want the government looking in my windows, or in my backyard. I have nothing to hide, but that should not be a requirement for one to feel safe and secure in their own homes from the prying eyes of the government. Anyone who thinks otherwise does not think very deeply about the balance between liberty and tyranny.
Rich Buckley April 25, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Netflix has a great download called "Masterpiece Contemporary -- The Final Enemy" which is far closer to what is incrementally really going on here in the US. The process is being driven less for our benefit and far more for the benefit of the military industrial complex. The energy that drives this process is like free candy and we are always suckers enough to take it. This is all about a chain of constant surveillance and the creation of a surveillance society linked down to one popular elected official our good local Sheriff. I think he will find that this issue of surveillance around the clock which every once in a while calls his drone operators to participate will come be to be an election topic that some deputy will use promising "no drone surveillance if elected."
Rich Buckley April 25, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Sort of exactly like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axQtAFtmtVA&feature=youtube_gdata_player


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