LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The civilian panel that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department approved a drone pilot program Tuesday — several months after the department first presented what it called a limited plan to use the technology.

Approval of the program by the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners came despite opposition from activists who consider the technology a threat to civil liberties and after only 6 percent of the 1,675 emails the LAPD received about the program expressed support for it.

During the meeting, several anti-drone protesters blocked traffic outside LAPD headquarters. Just before 1 p.m., officers cleared the intersection and cited some of the protesters for unlawful assembly.

The board held a meeting two weeks ago, when it approved the guidelines for the 1-year pilot program. Now, after posting the guidelines on the department’s website for two weeks and receiving more public feedback, the board voteed on its final approval.

The commission first heard a presentation on the guidelines for the proposed LAPD program in August, and the department held four public meetings to get feedback.

Latest Coverage: The Debate Over Drone Use

Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill voted against the program Tuesday, while Commission President Steve Soboroff, Vice President Matthew Johnson and Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa voted for it. Commissioner Shane Murphy Goldsmith was not present for the vote.

A pair of Draganflyer X6 drones were given to the LAPD by Seattle in 2014, but they have never been deployed. Police Chief Charlie Beck said at the time that the drones could be used during tactical events such as manhunts and standoffs. But he also said the department planned to work closely with the American Civil Liberties Union to ensure the drones would not infringe on individual privacy rights.

The LAPD’s pursuit of a pilot program is a reversal of its policy after it abandoned the idea of using drones three years ago in the face of protests from activists.

According to the guidelines the LAPD commission approved, drones would be used in a limited capacity, including high-risk tactical operations, barricaded armed suspect responses, hostage rescues, and situations involving threats of exposure to hazardous materials and the need to detect explosive devices.

The drones will not be weaponized or used during surveillance, and their use will have be approved on a case-by-case basis.

The Los Angeles City Council cleared the way in June for the city’s fire department to begin using drones. A Los Angeles Fire Department report addressed the issue of privacy concerns and said the devices would not be used to monitor or provide surveillance for law enforcement.

In July, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Civilian Oversight Commission voted 5-4 to call for the grounding of the LASD’s drone program, although Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the program would continue.

Members of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, the Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and other civil rights organizations have been vocal about their opposition to the program over concerns that “mission creep” will lead to the devices one day being armed or used for surveillance to infringe on privacy rights.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (16)
  1. Stu Pedasso says:

    You can hear a police helicopter, but those drones are silent and sneaky. I’m opposed.

  2. Woop DeDoo says:

    If there is one thing I’ve learned from Burbank police stalking me by helicopter for 10-50 minutes while I walk around at night because I refused to show my i.d. to them years ago (and I have dozens of videos of this crime) it’s that the police in this area wouldn’t abuse this technology whatsoever. #sarcasm

  3. Time to heed Joe Biteme’s advice: “Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!”

  4. Of course the drones will be armed with high powered machine guns to keep the disarmed population under control. It will the despotic regime’s wet dream to mow down thousands of innocent victims to enforce obedience to the state.

  5. Bill Loyal says:

    Enjoy your police state dummies.. SO GLAD I closed my business and moved out of that state, I pay less in taxes and make more money in a non slave FREE state

    1. Your taxes are low because payments from blue states prop up red states (the “moocher” states).

  6. HOLY Well people have been begging for a complete prison police state in California . Lets see how they will like it. Now everyone is criminal until proven innocent.

  7. waiting for the “drones are racist they target black people” article

  8. Human stupidity knows no bounds. Are you going to ban helicopters, too? Numerous depts through the country fly UAVs. I am Chief UAS pilot for one of them. Stealthy? Hardly. Sounds like a million bees flying at once. Get over yourself LA.

  9. John Ruppe says:

    If you’re not doing something illegal why would you be upset?

    1. Paul Kersey says:

      If you were/are married would it be ok for them to peek into your windows to see what you’re doing or if your daughter or wife is naked? It’s not illegal to do those things in your own house so is it legal for LE to peek in? Would you not be upset?

  10. Paul Kersey says:

    The whole point is that this will become insidious like government always has been. “Well it’s limited to what we can do.” Next it is, “Well we’ve changed the law now we can zip through your back yard if we like.” Then it is “We saw you grilling in your back yard. Pay the ticket or die.” IT IS ALWAYS….. INSIDIOUS California is the epitome of a tyrannical state.

  11. Pat Kinnick says:

    Would it be OK for the general public to use drones to monitor LAPD???

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