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Proposed LAPD Drone Policy Draws Public Ire

Despite protests outside the department’s headquarters, a civilian commission is looking at guidelines for a one-year drone pilot program.

by Brenda Gazzar, Wes Woods, Daily News / October 18, 2017

(TNS) -- A group of anti-drone protesters stood outside Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters Tuesday morning chanting “Drone-free LAPD, no drones LA!”

The civilian Los Angeles Police Commission is considering guidelines today for a one-year pilot program for the use of drones by police in certain situations, despite significant concerns voiced by some members of the public.

The drones would be used by Los Angeles Police Department’s Metropolitan Division SWAT Team to resolve “dangerous, high-risk tactical situations and improve situational awareness capabilities during natural disasters and catastrophic incidents,” according to the draft proposal.

“Drones and the SWAT team — I mean if you talk about a prescription for unconstitutional policing, those two words say it all. Give some drones to SWAT,” Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild-LA said at the protest. “And mission creep is important to the story.”

Under the draft policy, a drone could be deployed to provide “enhanced situational awareness” only during the following incidents:

  • Barricaded suspects
  • Active shooter incidents
  • Assessments of explosive devices and explosions
  • Hostage situations
  • Natural disasters
  • Hazardous materials incidents
  • Search and rescue operations
  • Perimeter searches of armed suspects with superior firepower, an extraordinary tactical advantage, or who are wanted for assault with a firearm against a police officer

A drone would not be used with any weapons capabilities, including any non-lethal or less-than-lethal systems, according to the proposed guidelines. It also could not be deployed in violation of the law or Constitution.

Any deployment involving the use of a drone would have to be approved by a high-ranking, on-scene or responding officer from the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau or the Office of Special Operations, as well as the commanding officer of the CTSOB.

Notification would then have to be made to the director of the Office of Special Operations, the police chief and liaisons on the Police Commission.

Groups like the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union have been vocal opponents of an LAPD drone program. While the department acquired a couple of drones in 2014, they were never launched after concerns were raised by the public.

©2017 the Daily News (Los Angeles) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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