LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Community activists Thursday held a rally at City Hall against the recent acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – or drones – by the Los Angeles Police Department.
According to the LAPD, these small aircrafts can only stay in the air for about 20 minutes and would have limited use in certain circumstances, such as hostage situations.
KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports about a dozen protesters with the Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! campaign staged a demonstration across from LAPD Headquarters downtown.
The group first called for limits on the use of drone technology by the LAPD in an Aug. 20 letter (PDF) addressed to Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“We believe the acquisition of drones signify a giant step forward in the militarization of local law enforcement that is normalizing continued surveillance and violations of human rights of our communities,” said coalition spokesman Hamid Kahn.
The letter addressed to Garcetti referred to potential “mission creep” in using drone surveillance technology in partnership with programs such as the Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) program, which the group claims “has resulted in the openings of thousands of secret files on people engaging in perfectly innocent behavior.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Garcetti’s office responded to the letter.
KCAL9’s Randy Paige spoke with protestors outside of City Hall who said that they would make sure that their message, “Drone free, LAPD,” would be made clear to the mayor’s representative, who was summoned to hear their concerns.
“We don’t want the LAPD to use drones in Los Angeles in any capacity whatsoever,” said Xander Snyder of Restore the Fourth.
LAPD Spokesman Bruce Borhian said that the department aircrafts are still being held in a secure location by a federal agency and have a ways to go before being approved or deployed.
“It’s gonna go through a lengthy approval process by our Police Commission, the chief, and various civil rights groups we’re gonna reach out to,” said Borhian. “We’re not going to sacrifice the public trust for any pieces of equipment.”
During an appearance on KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO’s “Ask The Mayor” program in June, Garcetti signaled the drones would remain grounded until lawmakers can establish specific policies governing their use.
“I’ve asked them to be grounded until we have a policy, until we have community input,” Garcetti said. “I don’t want these things up in the air until we know for sure they’re not going to be used against innocent folks.”
In May, the LAPD announced the acquisition of two DraganFlyer X6 Drones from the Seattle Police Department using federal grants.