Another California Police Force Gets UAVs, Stirs Up Controversy


Trouble is brewing now that California's Alameda County Sheriff Office possesses two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The SFGate reports that Sheriff Greg Ahern used $97,000 in funds from the Alameda County's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to buy the aircraft, two QR425 quadrotors from AirCover.

Although the police must first obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to put the UAVs in action, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are concerned that the devices will be used for surveillance on citizens.

An ACLU representative told the SFGate that the purchase is a “troubling example of law enforcement trying to acquire invasive and unpopular surveillance technology in secret.” Ahern reportedly affirmed that the devices would be used for “mission-specific incidents” and never for surveillance.

The “in secret” refers to the way Ahern went about purchasing them. After the public voiced its disapproval last year, he canceled a previous request for the department to buy UAVs with federal funds, according to the report. Now, it says, Ahern followed through on the plan using this other source of money.

This isn’t the first time the public has disagreed with law enforcement’s purchase of UAVs in California. Earlier this year, the San Jose and Los Angeles police departments each obtained UAVs and sparked public outcry. The LAPD’s UAVs now sit in federal custody until city policies regarding their operations take shape.

In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a measure that would restrict how UAVs can be used by police and other public agencies. It would mandate that law enforcement have a warrant in order to operate the aircraft.

The full SFGate coverage can be found here.

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