By Kevin Johnson USA TODAY
WASHINGTON; The nation's largest consortium of police officials calls for the
limited use of unmanned drones in local law
enforcement operations and urges that the controversial aircraft; popular
weapons on international battlefields & not be armed.
The first national advisory for the use of
unmanned aircraft issued by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
comes as federal lawmakers and civil rights advocates have expressed deep
concerns about the vehicles use in domestic law enforcement.
Only a handful of police agencies, including the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff's
Department, use unmanned aircraft. Don Roby, chairman of the IACP's aviation
committee, said an increasing number of departments are considering unmanned
aircraft for such things as search-and-rescue operations, traffic accident scene
mapping and some surveillance activities.
In July, federal lawmakers, including
Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland
Security Committee, expressed concerns about the potential risk of arming the
vehicles as they are being increasingly considered for use.
Some of the vehicles, Thompson said, have
the capacity to "shoot (stun gun) projectiles, tear gas and rubber balls from
300 feet above ground."
Roby said the guidelines represent an
"urgent" attempt to redefine the value of aerial drones
away from the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. "It's very important
that people understand that we won';t be up there with armed predator
drones firing away," said Roby, who is a
Baltimore Police Department captain.
In cases in which a drone is to be used to
collect evidence that would probably "intrude upon reasonable expectations of
privacy," the IACP's guidelines recommend that police secure search warrants
before launching the vehicle.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
said in a statement that it "applauded" the police group for "issuing
recommendations that are quite strong in some areas."
"At the same time, we don';t think these
recommendations go far enough to ensure true protection of privacy from
drones," the ACLU said, adding that privacy
protections need to be enshrined in law, "not merely promulgated by the police
Some legislative proposals, including a
bill by Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY., calls for authorities to secure warrants before
all uses, except when the aircraft is being used to patrol the borders, when
there is a threat of terrorist attack or in cases when life is threatened.
Steve Ingley, executive director of the
Airborne Law Enforcement Association, which promotes the use of aviation in
public-safety missions, said it is necessary for police to respond quickly to
the civil liberties concerns outlined in proposed legislation and by civil
"This (drone use) is a good potential tool
for law enforcement but its important for people to know that this is not the
Predator," Ingley said. "This is very different."