The prospect of Los Angeles police officers using drones flew a step closer to reality Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Police Commission, a civilian group that oversees the department, is considering a pilot program that would allow officers to fly drones for tactical purposes.
Two Draganflyer drones were gifted to the LAPD from the Seattle Police Department in May 2014. The police department has maintained that the drones would be used only for SWAT calls such as barricaded suspects or hostage situations.
“If we use them, it would be in a tactical situation and not any kind of general surveillance. By tactical situation I mean a SWAT standoff, barricaded suspect, that kind of thing where it’s much safer to put one of these vehicles overhead than a helicopter,” said Chief Charlie Beck during an AirTalk interview in 2014.
Members of the public who are against drone use in law enforcement made themselves heard Tuesday morning at a rally before the commissioners’ meeting and even during the meeting itself.
Chants of ‘Drone Free LAPD, No Drones LA’ at LA Police Cmsn after presentation on proposed drone pilot program. @KNX1070 https://t.co/ArnGe2oRXj
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department started using a drone in January to help out deputies on the ground.
While sheriff’s officials tout the possibilities that unmanned aircraft can offer, critics have worried about the prospect of “mission creep.”
A group called Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! Campaign wrote a letter to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in November 2015, warning against the use of drones.
“The use of drone technology further militarizes law enforcement tactics, linking local law enforcement to garrison style military rule,” the campaign wrote.