Alameda County Sheriff’s drone program proves divisive
on March 18, 2013
Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern’s plans to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles for law enforcement, for the collection of photographic evidence at crime scenes, and for aerial support of emergency response operations in the county have provoked debate and raised privacy concerns among residents.
The sheriff’s plan, which is currently awaiting a decision from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ Public Protection Committee, continues to be a divisive subject in Oakland and Berkeley.
“Traditional forms of aerial surveillance are very expensive and this natural resource limitation presents a barrier to abuse,” Linda Lye, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union said. “When technology lowers the cost of collecting information, the potential for collection of information out of curiousity is opened up, and the need for legal safeguards is essential.”
Berkeley Councilman Jesse Arreguin said that although there could be limited uses for drones in emergency response to fires and natural disasters, the use of unmanned systems for law enforcement would result in the abuse of the privacy of citizens.
“We advise the sheriff not to buy a drone,” Arreguin said. “Although we do not have control over our airspace, we have made it clear that we do not want drones flying over Berkeley.”
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