Are drones a good tool for Law Enforcement to use? Do they violate peoples’ right to privacy? Should a warrant be required to use them? Should the police be limited in how they can use them?
As you can see, there are many questions surrounding Law Enforcement’s use of drones and getting the answers to these questions will be a long and tedious process, which will play out in the courts, Appellate Courts, and ultimately, the Supreme Court.
For now though, drones are here to stay for many Law Enforcement Agencies around the country, and around the world for that matter. Let’s look at the questions that I posted above.
Are drones a good tool for Law Enforcement to use?
ABSO-FREAKIN-LUTELY! Look, when there is a critical incident in progress, or a large event with huge crowds, or gatherings of protesters, what keeps people safe is information. Information that gets into the hands of Law Enforcement as quickly as possible is the difference in an event ending peacefully, without injuries or death, and an event ending up with people hurt or dead. Possibly many, many people hurt or dead. Drones give the police a vantage point that only a camera mounted on a flying little plastic bird can give. That vantage point allows them to head off trouble before it has a chance to get going in a lot of cases.
Do drones violate peoples’ right to privacy?
They can if they are misused.
But in the overwhelming majority of the time the drones are used in accordance with state and local law, as well as the department’s policy and procedures. Is there always going to be some dumbass cop that will fly the drone over Mrs. Nelson’s backyard and watch as she sunbathes nekkid as a mole rat? Of course there is. But that is the case with every single tool utilized by Law Enforcement today. You just have to deal with those incidents when they pop up.
Should a warrant be required to use them?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
If an Investigator is working a case and he/she needs to utilize a drone for a specific purpose, such as deliberately flying the drone over a person’s property to take pictures of a certain thing, then yes, a warrant should be required.
I am working a case involving a stolen 4-wheeler. A snitch tells me that the 4-wheeler is under a blue tarp, next to an old white pickup truck, behind the suspect’s garage. The garage area is fenced with an 8 foot privacy fence. So I want to fly the department’s drone over the suspect’s property to see if what the snitch is telling me is true so I can use that information to get a search warrant and go on the property to recover the stolen 4-wheeler.
In this case I would definitely obtain a search warrant for the use of the drone, because I will be conducting a search of private property by flying the drone over it and taking photos.
NOW, let’s say I am out one day flying the department’s drone to conduct surveillance on a crowd at a parade. I am flying the drone over the parade route and happen to spot a 4-wheeler that I believe is the stolen one that I am looking for. Can I use this information to go back and get a search warrant for the property? Yes I can, provided I have additional information to go with it. Let’s say that after some checking, I discover that the person who owns the property was at the complainant’s house the day before the 4-wheeler was stolen. That, plus the accidental discovery of the 4-wheeler with the drone, would get me a search warrant to recover the stolen 4-wheeler and make my case.
Should the police be limited in how they can use them?
Look, anything that a law enforcement agency uses is going to be restricted, monitored, and “policy-manualed” to death. Drones will be no different. They have to do this because we live in the greatest country on earth, the United States, and everybody is waiting for their chance to sue a city or department. It is what it is.
I have said it before, and I will say it again and again…..if the people of the United States want to be safe from the terrorist cowards that are now in every state in the country, then they are going to have to give up a small amount of privacy. IT IS JUST THAT SIMPLE!
How the hell are we supposed to keep weapons and bombs off of airplanes if we can’t search people, and search them thoroughly, when necessary?
How the hell are we supposed to find the Fentanyl, and Methamphetamine that is killing people at an astonishing rate, if the police can’t search the pockets and cars of people that they suspect of having the drugs? They are not just randomly picking people off the street to search, they have been trained, and they have experience, and they learn intuition about people. Are they wrong sometimes, of course. Are they wrong more than they are right….No they are not!
How the hell are we supposed to get these drunk drivers off the roads if we can’t take a blood or breath sample from them? These drunks are killing our families, but we want to make sure and protect their rights instead of making sure keep them off of roads and highways? If you disagree…….call me when a drunk driver kills your kids, or spouse, or mom and dad and let’s see how you feel about it then.
You don’t have to agree with me. You don’t have to like what I have to say, but hang on kids because it just gets worse from here! This country is not safe from the rest of the world, because we are in such a hurry to help out the bad people!