Northern Ireland’s national police force is under fire from critics after recent reports surfaced revealing law enforcement launched drones during several tactical missions without informing the public.
The Impartial Reporter, a news site based in Enniskillen, reported that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has deployed drones 32 times in County Fermangh, according to reports released under a Freedom of Information Request by civil liberties group Your Right to Know.
The informational release states that the PSNI used UAVs purchased at the 2013 G8 summit on missions “operational occasions … as an operational tool for investigating crimes including those that may have occurred historically.”
The PSNI will not reveal how, when, where or why the drones were used only saying that “it is well established that police forces use covert tactics and surveillance to gain intelligence in order to counteract criminal behavior,”
“It has been previously documented in the media that many terrorist incidents have been thwarted due to intelligence gained by these means,” a PSNI spokesperson said.
However, some government officials say the PSNI crossed the line by not revealing its drone program.
“I totally condemn the continued violation of our civil liberties by the PSNI and other British intelligence services,” said Councillor Bernice Swift, adding that the “recent Freedom of Information Request exposes the very hidden and covert nature of British policing in Ireland and demands immediate answers from those responsible.”
This is not the first time police have admitted drone deployment following a public-information inquiry.
Last week, the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission ruled that the Stratford police department violated the state’s FOI Act by refusing to provide the ACLU with information about its possible drone program. The department balked at the ACLU’s 2015 request, citing a law that allows them to refuse a records request if “the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest.”
Last year, the San Jose Police Department apologized for secretly using federal grant funds to buy a $7,000 drone in 2014 after several media outlets filed records requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Privacy watchdogs were infuriated and the case became a nationally known example of police quietly using federal funds to purchase an advanced piece of technology.
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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