Civil Liberties

Reason-Rupe Poll: Americans Still Uncomfortable with Cops and Drones


The newest Reason-Rupe poll has found that 58 percent of Americans think law enforcement's use of militarized weapons, armored vehicles and drones has gone too far. While Americans may be able to see cops riding around in MRAPS wearing riot gear, it's the militarized tools that Americans don't see like drones flying over their backyards that may be just as scary to them.

When Sheriff Gregory Ahern of Alameda County said that he wanted to use a drone for search and rescue at a public protection committee meeting in February 2013, privacy advocates and residents pushed back, claiming that it would be too easy for the sheriff's department to surveil citizens. "This drone is just another mechanism to invade people's privacy and spy on them," said one woman at the meeting.

Residents may have had cause for concern. Muckrock news and the Electronic Frontier Foundation submitted a public records request to the department seeking information about what Sheriff Ahern wanted to use the drone for. They received an internal memorandum saying the department was seeking a homeland security grant to fight terrorism and was seeking a drone that could basically see through walls with infrared technology:

The Alameda County Sheriff seeks to purchase a Draganfly drone (model unspecified), which will be equipped with "live video downlink and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR)." FLIR cameras detect infrared radiation given off by heat sources, such as people and animals. In California in particular, thermal imaging systems such as FLIR have been used by law enforcement to search out indoor cannabis production facilities.

For more on Alameda county and reasons why Americans are concerned about drones watch, Cops with Drones: Alameda Co., CA, Weighs Technology vs. Privacy: