The Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight commissioners have told Sheriff Jim McDonnell to stop flying a drone used in law enforcement operations.
They are citing concerns over surveillance, safety and potential trauma to the public.
In 2012, the Sheriff’s Department used a plane to secretly shoot video footage of city streets in order to catch criminals. Activists have warned of possible “mission creep,” They’re worried the drone could be used for random spying on residents and could one day be armed or be deployed as a weapon itself.
“Residents of Los Angeles vehemently reject the deployment of drones by LASD,” according to the Drone-Free LASD/No Drones, LA! group. “We believe the acquisition of drones signify a giant step forward in the militarization of local law enforcement. That is normalizing continued violations of human rights of our communities.”
Supervisor Hilda Solis had requested that the Inspector General’s office work with the Civilian Oversight Commission. The goal is to provide the public with more transparency about the drone program.
“In such circumstances, these devices can greatly aid law enforcement in protecting the public. Deputies and their use deserve strong support,” according to her motion.
“However, past experience has led to valid concern that the devices. Drones have been used to carry weapons by the military. Even the name is a matter of debate. Flying cameras, whether remotely controlled or not, have in the past been used for warrantless surveillance. Sometimes without notice to the public.”
The Los Angeles Police Department acquired two drones in 2014 but never launched them after protests about potential surveillance uses.
Some of those members left open the possibility they might consider backing the use of the drone after more careful study. They want more trust built up within the communities the Sheriff’s Department serves.