Public Outcry Halts Calif. Sheriff's Plan to Purchase Drone

By:  Raven Clabough
12/06/2012
       
Public Outcry Halts Calif. Sheriff's Plan to Purchase Drone

The Alameda County, California sheriff’s office has been forced to suspend the purchase of a surveillance drone after constitutionalists and activists slammed the agency with concerns that the use of the unmanned aerial vehicle would violate privacy protections.

The sheriff’s office had asked the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to approve a $31,646 grant to purchase a drone. The money was part of a $1.2-million grant handed out by the California Emergency Management Agency.

The Alameda County, California, sheriff’s office has been forced to suspend the purchase of a surveillance drone after constitutionalists and activists slammed the agency with concerns that the use of the unmanned aerial vehicle would violate privacy protections.

Sheriff Gregory Ahern had asked the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to approve a $31,646 grant to purchase a drone. The money was part of a $1.2-million grant handed out by the California Emergency Management Agency.

County supervisors were preparing to vote on the use of grant money for such a purchase, but the public outcry from civil rights attorneys and anti-drone advocates has now forced the sheriff’s office to postpone the decision.

Mercury News reports:

Last minute intervention Tuesday morning by the American Civil Liberties Union prompted supervisors to require explicit authorization to use grant money the Sheriff's Office received to purchase the drone. Now the proposal will have to go to the public protection committee for approval then back to the full board of supervisors.

Undersheriff Richard Lucia has announced that the office will not buy a drone until the subject has been fully explored publicly. If the acquisition of the aircraft is blocked by supervisors, he said, the money will be returned to the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) to be used for something else.

“We stand by our word,” he said.

ACLU attorney Linda Lye stated that the proposal would allow virtual police “spying,” adding that Sheriff Ahern was “not taking privacy issues seriously.”

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Photo of a drone: AP Images

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