[Rushtalk] St. Louis police chief wants drones to monitor city from the sky
John A. Quayle
blueoval57 at verizon.net
Thu Jul 11 14:06:56 MDT 2013
At 01:54 AM 7/11/2013, Paf Dvorak wrote:
>At 08:15 AM 7/10/2013 -0700, Carl Spitzer wrote:
>How long will it take before they pass a law
>saying shooting at a drone carries the same penalty as shooting at a cop?
6-12 months, perhaps..............
>>St. Louis police chief wants drones to monitor city from the sky
>>June 23, 2013 12:30
>>ST. LOUIS In Chief Sam Dotsons vision of
>>modern policing, a drone would circle Busch
>>Stadium to watch for terrorists, or silently
>>pursue a criminal who thought the chase was
>>over when the officer in the car behind him
>>turned off its red lights and siren.
>>And Dotson is working to make it happen.
>>Criminals believe, and with some truth, that
>>if they flee from police officers, officers
>>will not pursue and they will ultimately elude
>>capture, Dotson wrote in a letter to the
>>Federal Aviation Administration. It was a
>>preliminary step toward seeking approval for unmanned and unarmed flight.
>>If we are serious about crime reduction
>>strategies, we must look to new technologies
>>which help keep officers and the public safe
>>and apprehend criminals, he said in the March 25 correspondence.
>>Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, whose assent
>>is required, also wrote to the FAA to offer
>>enthusiastic support. She declined to
>>elaborate, saying through a spokeswoman: The letter speaks for itself.
>>Dotson said he would seek donations and grants
>>to pay for the miniature airplanes, which run
>>from $60,000 to $300,000 each pricey, but
>>still cheaper and safer than a helicopter.
>>Privacy advocates such as the American Civil
>>Liberties Union already grappling with recent
>>news that the FBI has been selectively using
>>drones for surveillance over U.S. soil are
>>balking at word of Dotsons contact with the FAA.
>>This is a significant expansion of government
>>surveillance, complained Jeffrey Mittman,
>>executive director of ACLU of Eastern Missouri.
>>Our laws have not kept up with our privacy
>>rights. Our Fourth Amendment privacy rights
>>arent safe from unreasonable search and
>>seizure when youre looking at drones.
>>Dotson said drones are not capable of anything
>>that helicopters dont already do or that
>>existing laws dont already protect.
>>This isnt Big Brother, this is a decision to
>>make everyone in the community safer, he insisted.
>>St. Louis is hardly the first police department interested in the technology.
>>The Electronic Frontier Foundation, another
>>privacy advocate, discovered through Freedom of
>>Information requests late last year that dozens
>>of police agencies submitted FAA applications.
>>In some cases, agencies shelved their programs
>>because of public pressure before even getting
>>off the ground. In Seattle, the mayor ordered
>>the police department to return the devices because of public outrage.
>>St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said he thinks
>>drones could provide a safer way to pursue fugitives.
>>Were proceeding in a very cautious way, he
>>said in an interview a few days ago. First we
>>must look at the technology and if we decide to
>>use the technology, to what extent it will be used.
>>The kind of capabilities Dotson advocates could
>>be years away, said Kurt Frisz, president of
>>the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, which
>>represents police helicopter pilots.
>>It is one of several groups working with the
>>FAA to develop rules for domestic use of drones
>>that Congress mandated by the end of next year.
>>So far, the FAA has granted permission only to
>>about a half-dozen police departments, mainly
>>in rural areas where drones would not interfere with airports.
>>Police account for only about 5 percent of
>>drone applicants, who include businesses,
>>universities and news media. The FAA requires
>>that a civilian drone remain within sight of
>>its operator, and fly no higher than 400 feet above ground.
>>Equipment available within those parameters
>>uses either a battery or small gasoline engine,
>>capable of no more than an hour of flight at a time, Frisz said.
>>Military drones can remain aloft for 36 hours
>>at a time and can cost hundreds of millions of
>>dollars and require ground crews of hundreds of people, he noted.
>>Dotson believes its only a matter of time
>>before drones can be pre-programmed to cruise
>>for hours and lock on to fleeing vehicles.
>>Since late February, 290 drivers have fled from
>>St. Louis officers and in May the average was
>>two a day, according to the department.
>>The automobile didnt go from the Model T to a
>>Porsche, there were many incremental steps along the way, Dotson said.
>>PRIVACY ISSUES UNSETTLED
>>While Congress mandated safety rules for
>>domestic drones, no agency is assigned to
>>privacy issues. A patchwork of state
>>regulations is emerging, and some states have prohibited drones all together.
>>A bill awaiting Gov. Pat Quinns signature in
>>Illinois would prohibit police from deploying
>>drones without warrants except in critical
>>situations or using photos from them in
>>court. The legislation also would forbid drones
>>from being equipped with weapons.
>>In April, the Missouri House passed a bill to
>>make the state a no drone zone, but it failed in the Senate.
>>The law would have banned warrantless
>>surveillance via manned or unmanned aircraft,
>>and required journalists to seek permission
>>from property owners before using unmanned
>>aircraft. It also would have required private
>>organizations or state agencies to seek
>>permission for any airborne surveillance.
>>That proposal sent police into panic mode,
>>fearing that helicopters could be grounded,
>>said Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, who also is
>>business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association.
>>It was a nonsolution to a nonproblem, Roorda
>>said. But the discussion is far from over.
>>Frisz hopes legislators wait for the FAA
>>regulations before considering any more drone
>>laws. He said 39 states have proposed anti-drone legislation.
>>A lot of this legislation is a knee-jerk
>>reaction to drone hysteria, he said. Lets
>>see what regulations are going to be before we
>>make laws about something we cant even do yet.
>>Frisz, who also is a St. Louis County police
>>captain, helped craft the Metro Air Support
>>helicopter partnership among his department,
>>the city and St. Charles County. He said he
>>sees drones (he prefers to call them unmanned
>>aerial vehicles) as an expansion of public safety, not a threat to helicopters.
>>Drones cannot rescue people or deploy officers
>>into scenes, like helicopters. The FAA does not
>>allow drones to fly at night. They are more at
>>the mercy of weather. And, the agency requires
>>each to have an operator and spotter, both with the same credentials.
>>There also are safety concerns about what
>>happens to people below if radio interference
>>interrupts the controls, or the drone otherwise
>>crashes. For now, their weight is limited to four pounds.
>>Its very attractive to chiefs who want this
>>bright, shiny new object, but at the same time
>>you need to look at what you can do and what cant you do, Frisz said.
>>His chief, Tim Fitch, said he never attends a
>>police conference without a company pitching
>>its latest drone technology. So far, Fitch is not impressed.
>>Were not going to be out in front on this
>>one, he said. But its certainly something were going to keep an eye on.
>>ALTERNATIVE USES FOR DRONES
>>The Mesa County Sheriffs Office in Colorado
>>was one of the first to get FAA approval, and
>>started using drones in 2009, said Benjamin Miller, its program manager.
>>Private companies provided two battery-operated
>>drones for free that he said otherwise would
>>have cost about $50,000 combined. He said they
>>cost about $25 an hour to operate. (Frisz said
>>a helicopter costs about $250 an hour.) One of
>>Mesa Countys drones can fly for about 15
>>minutes, the other about an hour. Each can fit in a backpack.
>>Miller said there seems like a lot of fuss for
>>not a lot of technology. At the end of the
>>day, youre going to pull a radio-controlled
>>toy out of a box that can fly for 15 minutes,
>>sometimes not even above the trees, Miller
>>said. I found myself thinking, Why in the
>>world am I working with FAA for this?
>>So far, Mesa County has used drones to
>>photograph and create three-dimensional models
>>of crimes scenes, and help search for missing people.
>>Miller said the fire department and public works division also use them.
>>The community used to spend about $10,000 on a
>>private plane to conduct an annual
>>government-mandated aerial survey of a
>>landfill. We did it in about two hours for
>>$50, Miller said. Were now dreaming beyond the stuff we dreamt of before.
>>Miller is considering equipping a drone to act
>>as a temporary radio relay tower in rural areas
>>or where regular towers have been destroyed.
>>Thats huge when you think of Oklahoma, he
>>said. Where a tornado knocks down all of the
>>equipment, I can have an antenna in the air within 15 minutes.
>>Privacy concerns have been raised and
>>addressed, he said. He has spoken to police
>>groups around the country and determined that
>>secrecy, or the perception of it, can ground a program.
>>Weve been open and transparent about it from
>>the beginning, Miller said. The resistance is
>>gone, but every now and then, we get a new
>>community member come in and ask about it with
>>the sheriff. They come in with the expectation
>>that were hiding a Predator drone that we got
>>from the military thats armed with missiles
>>hiding in a hangar. But were so far away from that, its just crazy.
>>Dotson said he is open to a public discussion here.
>>We need to ask ourselves, Does the solution
>>make sense? he said. And if it does, we
>>should use it and not fall to political pressure.
>>We all know technology helps makes life
>>better, and I dont think I would be doing my
>>job if I wasnt pushing this conversation.
>>Christine Byers is a crime reporter for the St.
>>Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow her on
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