The federal Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is going to be holding onto the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) until city policies regarding the use of drones take shape.
In May, the two Draganflyer vehicles were gifted to the LAPD from the Seattle Police Department, who initially purchased them using federal grant funds. Much public outcry and widespread attention were brought to the matter, including the formation of an anti-drone group and a legislation passed in the California State Senate – California's Drone Privacy Protection Act of 2014, A.B.1327 – that restricts how UAVs can be used by police and other public agencies.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recently used a Draganfly UAV to locate and rescue a missing family of hikers. The RCMP also credits the aircraft with saving the life of a car-crash victim in May.
Pending the development of polices and protocols governing their use by the LAPD, including outreach and community engagement with stakeholders and the approval by the Board of Police Commissioners (Commission), the UAVs have been placed into the custody of a federal law enforcement agency, the LAPD explains.
On Sept. 12, at the direction of Commission President Steve Soboroff, the two UAVs were transferred to the care and custody of the OIG, where they will remain until the LAPD presents to the Commission draft policies and procedures that reflect public input.
‘I want to assure all that there has been no decision that UAVs will be utilized in the City of Los Angeles. There will be no deployment of these vehicles until the Commission completes a thorough review of the proposed policies and protocols,” says Soboroff.
“The proposed policies and protocols will be reviewed publicly by the Commission, and the public will have opportunities to address the Commission directly with their concerns,” he adds.
Inspector General Alexander Bustamante says, ‘The Commission has transferred the two unmanned aerial vehicles into my custody. These two vehicles will be secured in my offices, and I will not release them to anyone, including the LAPD, until and unless the Commission authorizes their release. In the meantime, these two UAVs will not be used or operated in any manner.’
The LAPD anticipates that its prepared draft policies and protocols will be considered by the Commission at public meetings in approximately six months.
Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo – the author of A.B.1327 – responded to anti-drone privacy activists who held a press conference at Los Angeles City Hall on Sept. 15 announcing their opposition to the bill.
“A small group in Southern California opposed to government use of drones for surveillance seriously misunderstands both the scope and intent of A.B.1327,” stated Gorell. “The sole purpose of this bill is to place restrictions on how state and local government may use drones, prohibiting law enforcement drone use unless they have a warrant.
‘A.B.1327 protects civil liberties and privacy rights, while also providing a path for public agencies to take advantage of the numerous beneficial applications of drones, such as firefighting, emergency management and environmental monitoring.”