Police Use of Drones Rises On the Agenda After Boston Marathon Bombings


Even if police drones weren't used in the manhunt for the Boston Marathon suspects, drones have become central to the post-bombing discussion of surveillance techniques, reports Stateline. Boston Police Chief Edward Davis wants to use drones at next year's Boston Marathon, calling them “a good idea.” Using a drone to pursue fleeing suspects like the Tsarnaev brothers would be legal under both state and federal law. Pre-emptively hovering drones over an event still makes many uncomfortable. Florida, Virginia, and Idaho already prohibit that kind of drone surveillance at events, and more states are debating it.

“Every state bill would allow a drone in a manhunt or chase,” said Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, “and there's no question that law enforcement would have had probable cause to use drones in pursuit (of the Boston suspects). But states have decided that they don't want that kind of constant-surveillance-use of drones at events, where everything is recorded.” Despite the call for more surveillance cameras after the successful identification of the Boston suspects using video footage, opposition to police use of drones in Massachusetts is moving ahead. Republican Sen. Robert Hedlund, sponsoring a bill to regulate law enforcement use of drones, wants to require warrants before police can use drones and place restrictions on how video footage collected from drones can be retained.

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