Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern has drafted policies covering his plans to use aerial drones in crime, fire, rescue and disaster operations.
Patch first reported on the Sheriffs' plans to use drones last October.
That prospect aroused opposition from civil libertarians who fear that drones will snoop on law-abiding citizens and shred Fourth Amendment guarantees against being searched without a warrant.
Sheriff Ahern's plans were important enough to prompt an editorial in the New York Times warning that the rules governing the deployment of drones "should guarantee the strongest protection of privacy under what promises to be a galaxy of new eyes in the sky."
The Sheriff's proposals begin with the assertion that his goal is "the safe, efficient and lawful operation" of drones or small unmanned aerial vehicles -- sUAVs as he calls them.
In the realm of protecting civil liberties the policy would:
- set up a website to allow citizens to file concerns or complaints
- train drone operators to focus their cameras on areas central to their missions to "minimize the inadvertent collection of data about uninvolved persons or places"
- refrain from equipping sUAVs with weapons.
The Sheriff says drones would be used for missions including:
- collecting evidence where a warrant issued or there is probable cause of a felony being committed
- in hostage situations, bomb threats, hazardous material spills, apprehending dangerous suspects and documenting crime scenes
- in response to fires, natural disasters or search-and-rescue missions
- during training operations
Just as President Obama controls the use of drones in life-and-death situations overseas, Sheriff Ahern proposes that law enforcement uses of sUAVs in Alameda County get the highest scrutiny.
"All flights will be approved in advance by the Sheriff or his/her designee (at least the rank of captain)," the policy says.
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