Newsflash:
Rep. Barbara Lee End Mass Criminalization Activists Sound Alarm as More Police Departments Consider Using Drones
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 13:36

Activists Sound Alarm as More Police Departments Consider Using Drones

Written by  Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams
An unmmanned drove hovers in the air. An unmmanned drove hovers in the air. (David Rodriguez Martin)
Police departments in the U.S. are increasingly considering the use of drones as a law enforcement tool, even as civil rights groups and media turn up scrutiny of police militarization in the wake of brutal crackdowns on anti-brutality protesters in Ferguson, Missouri and other cities. The Baltimore Sun reported on Sunday that agencies in several Maryland counties are considering testing drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), for intelligence gathering and "high-risk tactical raids."
That news comes less than a week after anti-war activists in California protested against "mission creep" by the Los Angeles Police Department, which recently acquired several of their own drones. Indiana police departments also recently announced their plan to pursue adding drones to their weapons arsenal.

In a letter (pdf) to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Drone-Free LA spokesperson Hamid Kahn expressed "deep concerns about the recent 'gifting' of two Draganflyer X Drones" by the Seattle Police Department to the LAPD. "We believe the acquisition of drones signifies a giant step forward in the militarization of local law enforcement that is normalizing continued surveillance and violations of human rights of our communities," Kahn wrote.

The SPD originally purchased the unmanned aerial vehicles using a federal grant called the Urban Areas Security Initiative — a common example of the effects of the government's pervasive, $34-billion militarization program that enables domestic police departments to acquire and trade tools and weapons intended for warfare. In a June press conference, LAPD chief Charlie Beck said drones would be useful in "standoffs, perimeters, suspects hiding," and defended the department's acquisition of the UAVs by stating, "When retailers start talking about using them to deliver packages, we would be silly not to at least have a discussion of whether we want to use them in law enforcement."

But while many police departments claim that they would use the vehicles strictly for high-risk scenarios, critics have sounded the alarm over the risks of drone use, particularly by entities they say are as historically oppressive as American law enforcement agencies.

Police militarization and violent police responses to peaceful protests have faced increased scrutiny in recent weeks after activists and reporters in Ferguson were tear gassed and shot at while demanding justice for Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager who was shot to death by a police officer earlier this month.

"A lot of what can be done with this equipment is very much questionable, as far as adherence to the Fourth Amendment," Nathan Sheard, a campaign organizer with anti-war group CodePink, told Common Dreams. "The fact that it’s being paid for by Department of Homeland Security shows a very obvious connection with militarization. When police departments start to be armed… as military forces, rather than protecting and serving, they start occupying and oppressing."

In California, Kahn pointed to the LAPD's history of "lies, brutality, and violence against communities," and said that the department is "incapable of creating any policy that would protect our human and civil rights."

Sheard also noted "the very real possibility of installing infrared cameras" on UAVs, models of which have already appeared in the U.S. The risks are "beyond what's just visible to the eye," Sheard said. "These are cameras that would pick up heat signals rather than video. How does that play into the Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure?"

David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Maryland, told WJZ that drones pose an inherent risk to the right to privacy. "That is completely incompatible with a free society and I think poses real dangers and is a real possibility unless we act to prevent it," Rocah said.

Regulation of drone technology is a concern as well. Claims from police departments that the UAVs would be used transparently and "would not sacrifice public trust," as LAPD spokesperson Bruce Borhian told KNX, are not enough, Sheard said.

"Who is monitoring [the police]?" Sheard told Common Dreams. "Who’s holding them accountable? What ability do citizens have to view that information? Where do those recordings go? There are just too many questions." He noted a successful CodePink campaign to end the use of drones by a department in Washington, D.C. that simply resulted in the vehicles being traded to an agency in California. "The equipment just changed hands," Sheard said.

Although the use of drones by police departments is still in relative infancy, waiting on testing and Federal Aviation Administration rules, more than 500 agencies were approved to use them in the last year alone.

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Read 1268 times

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Lee Campaign

Latest News from the Grayson Campaign

Latest News from the Schapira Campaign

  • Standard-Bearer in Pivotal Arizona Congressional Race
    Standard-Bearer in Pivotal Arizona Congressional Race

    With early ballots in the mail, and only three weeks from the August 28th primary, State Senator David Schapira has emerged as the Democratic standard-bearer in a closely watched and increasingly nasty three-way congressional race in Arizona that many observers see as a litmus test for national Democratic chances to pick up critical seats in Congress.

    Written on Thursday, 09 August 2012 01:45 Read more...
  • Harry Mitchell Endorses David Schapira for Congress
    Harry Mitchell Endorses David Schapira for Congress

    “The primary in Congressional District 9 has pitted three of the brightest members of the Democratic Party in Arizona against each other. All three candidates are leaders in our state and I am honored to call them friends.

    Written on Thursday, 26 July 2012 12:14 Read more...
  • A Guest Post From Arizona Progressive State Senator David Schapira
    A Guest Post From Arizona Progressive State Senator David Schapira

    Endorsements are a funny thing. Most of them aren't worth anything at all. I have two friends running in the Democratic primary in Arizona's brand new 9th CD, Kyrsten Sinema and Andrei Cherny. Kyrsten is a progressive and Andrei is somewhere in his own world ideologically. But the third guy... well, he's the one who's been endorsed by Raúl-- and by PDA. Whomever wins the August 28th primary is, likelier than not, headed to Congress. That third guy is David Schapira, the Senate Democratic Leader.

    Written on Saturday, 30 June 2012 13:38 Read more...
  • David Schapira Receives PDA Endorsement
    David Schapira Receives PDA Endorsement

    On the May Inside the Party call, David Schapira (AZ-9) received the PDA National endorsement. Currently David Schapira is the Arizona State Senate Democratic Leader.

    Written on Thursday, 24 May 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • Arizona Communications Workers of America State Council Endorses David Schapira for Congress
    Arizona Communications Workers of America State Council Endorses David Schapira for Congress

    The Arizona Communications Workers of America (CWA) State Council announced today their endorsement of Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in the race for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. The state council is comprised of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association (AZCPOA), the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and multiple CWA local affiliates.

    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2012 19:55 Read more...
  • Congressman Raúl Grijalva Endorses David Schapira
    Congressman Raúl Grijalva Endorses David Schapira

    Congressman Raúl Grijalva, AZ-07, today announced his endorsement of Arizona Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in his campaign for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. “Voters are looking for candidates who stand up for what they believe in and can win, not by hiding their values, but by sharing them with voters. David is that candidate,” said Rep. Grijalva.

    Written on Monday, 30 April 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • Arizona Union Rights Stripped

    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer pushes the country's most anti-union agenda yet. David Shapira, Democratic leader of the Arizona state senate, slams his Republican colleagues. Welcome back to "The Ed Show." Jan Brewer and the Arizona Republicans are on a tear. they are on the offensive. they are on a mission to completely destroy public employee unions. have you heard the story before?

    Written on Thursday, 02 February 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • State Senator David Schapira Jumps Into District 9 Congressional Race
    State Senator David Schapira Jumps Into District 9 Congressional Race

    As predicted, former state Senator Kyrsten Sinema's not the only Democrat with her eye on Arizona's new Congressional seat -- this morning, state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira announced that he, too, will run in Arizona's newly formed 9th Congressional district.

    Written on Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00 Read more...

Sign the ERA Petition

ERADemandButton

On Friday, September 12th more than 150 activists will go to DC and Demand that their Senators and Representatives support removing the ratification deadline from the ERA (SJ Res 15 and HJ Res 113)

Button-SignERAPetition

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Like Rep. Barbara Lee

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of