Why Are Police Plans to Deploy Drones Provoking Opposition in Seattle?


Law-enforcement agencies long have used helicopters and airplanes for search-and-rescue missions, manhunts, SWAT-team operations, traffic control, and car chases. The Seattle Times asks why have plans by Seattle police and other agencies to deploy unmanned drones drawn such intense fire. The vocal opposition came into sharp focus two weeks ago during a public meeting when Seattle officials were shouted down with chants of “No drones!”

Police, privacy-rights experts and even the American Civil Liberties Union say the technology is not going away. The question is how to craft thoughtful laws that protect privacy, according to the ACLU of Washington. “How can they (law enforcement) shepherd us into an age when we have drones if they don’t deal with people’s privacy fears?” said Ryan Calo of the University of Washington School of Law who has written on the issue of drones and privacy. The ACLU has said a review of existing laws and policies shows they are inadequate to safeguard citizen privacy. Calo said that while drones do not provide more “opportunity for mischief” or misuse than, say, fusion centers where data is collected and shared, they do provoke more fear.

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