In the ever changing Game of Drones, UAV deployment by cops is one of the fastest-growing and most contentious arenas of debate. In Minnesota, drone use by law-enforcement is matching the winter weather of the Land of 10,000 Lakes – frosty and cloudy.
In Rochester, Minn., the local newspaper opines … um … well, they don’t really have an opinion yet. The Post-Bulletin weighs several factors surrounding Police Chief Roger Peterson’s initial reluctance and subsequent enthusiasm with drone deployment.
The chief told the city’s Police Policy Oversight Commission that, while his initial reaction was “pretty negative,” a staff members research presentation swayed him to look to the skies to better his department. Still, the Post-Bulletin, reflecting the public’s mixture of ambivalence and enthusiasm with UAVs, quailed at landing on a solid position, stating that “too many unanswered questions remain to be able determine whether a drone program would be an asset to the police department or raise too many concerns to make it beneficial.”
In the final analysis, the newspaper remains – like many Americans — cautious but open-minded about police drones. “We’re not ready to say yes or no to what could become the state’s first police-drone program. However, we are ready to hear more about it.”
Meanwhile in St. Paul, Minnesota legislators heard testimony this week on a measure that would restrict law-enforcement’s drone capabilities and they learned that UAVs could potentially thwart medieval Japanese warriors – and, no, that’s not a typo.
The bill would prohibit weaponization of police UAV, ban the use of facial recognition or biometric matching technology, as well as set drone-gather, data-deletion guidelines and require a search warrant for all police UAV deployment.
Minnesota Sheriff’s Association director Jim Franklin opposes the measure — sponsored by Rep. Scott Dibble – stating that, contrary to Dibble’s bill, law-enforcement drones should be allowed to carry weapons. “What do we define as a weapon?” Franklin asked, pointing out (rather oddly) that a weaponized drone could disarm “somebody with a samurai sword” or drop nets on fleeing suspects. No word on whether or not Minnesotans breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that drones could make them safe from steel blades of the 47 Ronin.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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