Police Department Sorry It Got Caught Denying Owning Drone



The San Jose Police Department (SJPD) is doing the pseudo-apology boogie this week in hopes that the hounding from transparency advocate Shawn Musgrave will finally stop. What are they so sorry for? That they got caught. They repeatedly dodged records requests about buying or even planning to buy a camera equipped-drone. 

Or, as they put it:

In hindsight, SJPD should have done a better job of communicating the purpose and acquisition of the [unmanned aircraft systems] device to our community. The community should have the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions, and express their concerns before we move forward with this project. To this end, we will first develop a community outreach plan before we take steps to deploy the UAS.

How thoughtful. How the SJPD has changed its tune, too. Until last month, they were telling Musgrave, who has been chronicling the saga on Vice and the FOIA blog MuckRock, that they didn't have no stinkin' drone and didn't know a thing about them.

It started back in December 2012, when "an analyst within the SJPD Research and Development Unit specifically responded that the department had no records regarding research into drones or plans to use unmanned aerial vehicles."

In fact, Musgrave later determined that they must have already submitted their proposal to acquire one a month prior.

And, although the city of San Jose received over $400,000 from the Department of Homeland Security, "including $8,000 to purchase a drone for [SJPD's] bomb squad" in May 2013, they dodged another records request that October, replying that

Our Department does not use aerial drones, remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs), unmanned aerials (UAs), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and/or unmanned aerial systems (UASs), nor does our Fiscal Unit have any records related to these items

The upkeepers of the law got their 1.5 pound hexacopter in January 2014, but it wasn't until July 15, when Musgrave compiled so much damning evidence of his own and information extracted from an American Civil Liberties Union request, that the cops acknowledged the purchase.

Even after all this, though, they can't keep their story straight. Their apology says that they they have no intention of using the drone until consulting with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

That may be true, but it contradicts the department's line of thought up until that point. From an internal memo within the department: "The UAV is not a drone. Drones are regulated by the FAA. The FAA doesn't regulate our device." Musgrave notes that while the FAA has been pretty opaque about what people can and can't do with their remote-controlled flying things, "in this case, the FAA has long made clear that all government agencies require authorization to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle in domestic airspace, regardless of the particular body type or where the unit was purchased." Well, uh, that's awkward.

Read about more MuckRock FOIA work here

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  1. They don’t even pretend anymore.

    1. Sure they do. They pretended they didn’t have a drone.

  2. “The FAA doesn’t regulate our device.”
    I wish I had the chutzpah to use this line of reasoning the next time I get pulled over for speeding.
    “I know it looks like an automobile, but really, it’s a special kind that you don’t have the authority to regulate.”

    1. Obama doesn’t have to follow laws and regulations, so why should you?

      1. I shouldn’t, but that won’t keep their boot off my neck.

        1. Allow me to qualify. I should, and do follow laws that are constitutional.

  3. The community should have the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions, and express their concerns before we move forward with this project.

    Translation: Nothing you say or think about this is going to change a fucking thing we do.

    1. “Translation: Nothing you say or think about this is going to change a fucking thing we do.”

      Come have a yap-fest. We’ll sit, listen carefully and do exactly what we want with the ‘cover’ of public comment.

      1. They learned it from the board of education. Those assholes have elevated this tactic to an art form.

  4. “Do you drone the way to San Jose?”
    Sing it, Dionne Warwick!

  5. FPSRussia (well-known YouTube personality) already demonstrated a weaponized drone platform. Private citizens will be able to afford this and it is one way we can fight back against the State’s goons. We need a Kickstarter project!

  6. That the police and government can lie to us, indicates they no longer protect us, and instead prey on us for their personal benefit. Given this, then why is lying to the police or federal agents a crime? Shouldn’t lying be a crime that applies to those in government as well? That or people should be free to lie (and damage their reputations along with it) unless under oath, and I’d say any government employee is under oath any time they are on the job

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