St. Louis Police Chief Wants Drones, Highlighting Drone Debate

By:  Raven Clabough
07/01/2013
       

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has called for drones to patrol within a year in an effort to better patrol the city’s highest crime areas. The proposal has drawn ire from privacy advocates.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has called for drones to patrol within a year in an effort to better patrol the city’s highest crime areas. The proposal has drawn ire from privacy advocates.

“I think the technology is there now domestically for law enforcement agencies to rely on unmanned aerial observation platforms to do a variety of things,” said Dotson.

Some of the requested applications include tracking suspicious vehicles and surveying high-crime areas. The use to which these devices would be used would be determined by internal police guidelines.

Dotson contends that the use of the equipment would not differ too significantly from the types of technology that is currently used by law-enforcement officials. “That’s what we use helicopters for now, I think that’s what we use neighborhood cameras (for)…. If you’re in a public space there is no expectation of privacy,” added Dotson.

Dotson is not the only police head to call for the use of drones for surveillance purposes. Last year, the Ogden Police Department filed an application to fly an unmanned surveillance blimp at a height of just 400 feet over the city to monitor criminal activity. That application had been rejected by the FAA as a result of safety concerns.

Following the Boston Marathon bombing, Boston’s Police Commissioner Edward Davis announced that he would like drones to be present during next year’s marathon.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office had asked the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to approve a grant in the amount of $31,646 to purchase a drone last year.

However, the Alameda County Sheriff’s office was forced to suspend the purchase of a surveillance drone after mass public outcry indicated fierce opposition to the plan. Privacy advocates criticized the Alameda County Sheriff’s office, voicing concerns that the use of surveillance drones will violate privacy protections.

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