In the 2004 comedy classic Anchorman, lead character Ron Burgundy constantly reminded his beloved city to: “Stay Classy, San Diego.” Today, local police hope to see a calm and classy public reaction to a drone assessment study.
The San Diego Sheriff’s Department announced the formation of an exploratory task force last week to get feedback on possible drone use by police.
“I think the real issue here is whether or not San Diego residents even want these drones,” Lt. Jason Vickery said. “There should be a public debate.” Vickery is part of a six-member group tasked with researching drone policies in other jurisdictions – such as Ventura and Alameda County – to help decide how to navigate the UAV skies.
Vickery says the benefits may very well outweigh privacy concerns, adding that any footage captured by drones “would only be stored for evidence purposes”
“Any data we collect, if it’s not of evidentiary value, would be destroyed,” he said, adding that police drones would not simply “sweep across the beat” or randomly take video of homes.
Public reaction to police drones has met with some pushback in some parts of the Golden State. In 2014, the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern decided to go ahead and buy a drone after the county board of supervisors opposed the purchase. “Ahern said he decided to spend $97,000 from the county’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to buy two small unmanned aerial surveillance devices,” the report stated.
At the state level, drone use in general has been the target of several regulatory bills. In September, the commercial drone industry and press freedom groups applauded Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a controversial bill that would have prohibited the flying of drones lower than 350 feet over private property without the owner’s permission. The California State Senate approved the bill in August, claiming that UAVs “should not be able to invade the privacy of our backyards and our private property without our permission.”
Brown disagreed: “This bill … while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action,” the governor stated in his response. “Drone technology certainly raises novel issues that merit careful examination. Before we go down that path, let’s look at this more carefully,” he added.
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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