Police and drones again.

I hate to keep harping on this, but this is a situation that really does need to be resolved. We as a society, want our law enforcement to use everything they can to keep all the bad guys in check. But we don’t want them to use any of it on any law abiding citizen. But just exactly how are they going to do that?

Our law enforcement have infrared heat sensors to detect marijuana grow houses, global positioning system (GPS) tracking devices to tail suspects and breathalyzers to calculate how much a driver has had to drink. Advances in technology usually mean new ways to help cops be more effective in their work, but it always seems to also raise fresh questions about where police work stops and invasion of privacy begins. And now, using drones by police seems to have raised those issues again.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) offer law enforcement a bird’s eye view of crime and disaster scenes more quickly than having to call for helicopters. But it has privacy hawkers concerned about how they can be used on intimate details of our daily lives.

One of the most significant benefits of UAVs is their ability to easily get to places where it would be costly or dangerous for people to go. That includes high in the air above everything and into active, natural disaster areas and crime scenes that are still in progress. Drones can be used for surveillance tasks, like tailing a person of interest in a criminal case or peeking into that person’s car or home. That’s where things get sticky. Peeking into homes. Some people just don’t like the sound of that.

It’s true there is little federal law to deal directly with the use of drones. The police can fly these buggers, without the need for warrants, outside people’s homes or cars, and when used with technology like facial recognition software, infrared abilities and high-powered audio recording devices, drones can be extremely useful in solving crimes. Warrants are not needed to scan objects that are in plain view, but privacy advocates are raising the questions about their uses for that.

Law enforcement agencies have to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use drones, but the FAA is concerned more with public safety, than the privacy issues. That leaves limits on drone use largely a state-by-state matter. My question is: how are police going to know if the car or house they are watching is one that contains criminals or not, if they can’t use drones to find out? Granted, they need to have probable cause to go to the house, or look into a car, before they can approach them in the first place, but how are they to know if they’re correct in their assumptions otherwise? It’s a sad situation that we have to deal with all this when criminals are the ones who have caused all this unrest in the first place. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t even be considering questioning any of this. I say let the police do their work. If they make a mistake and go to a wrong house, then that is just being human. No one is perfect. I’m sorry for the unrest that will cause for the occupants, but get mad at the criminals for causing all this, not at the police. The police are just trying to keep us safe.

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