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Fwd: Use of Drones by the Police

From: domainremoved <Pushpinder>
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2019 16:50:14 -0800

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Hi Mayor and City Council Members,

I am commenting on the topic of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in the agenda for tonight. I'm going to focus my comments on the use of UAS by our police dept. This fundamentally impacts our privacy as citizens, has serious ethical implications, is wasteful of the use of City resources, and is the wrong step if we want to build trust in the police force.

I've attached a PDF (2016) of a thesis on the ethics of using drones or UAS by police enforcement. This Masters thesis is from the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey. This thesis is one of thousands of articles and law reports that document the gray area of using UAS in policing.

Key points:

1. There is no single set of ethical guidelines for the use of UAS for domestic law enforcement functions. (page 16 of thesis). This leads to the logical specter of misuse and violations, potentially leading to lawsuits, and declining goodwill among Menlo Park citizens.
2. The study identified seven common dimensions of ethical concern regarding UAS use (page 17):

  * engagement
  * accountability
  * transparency
  * privacy
  * legality
  * use of force
  * safety

How will policies and frameworks on each of these dimensions be developed by the City to protect the constitutional right of privacy of citizens who are at the receiving end of this policing?

3. The debate about police use of drones is a debate of the future of policing. On that note, what sort of police force do we want--one that uses drones on its citizens or knocks on doors and does preventative policing vs punitive?

My questions and comments:

1. Given the gray zone, why does the city want to use our tax dollars for an ethically challenging investment that violates a citizen's sense of safety and privacy?
2. Has the city consulted with the US Department of Homeland Security on best practices for protecting privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties in using UAS? See link below
3. Has the city considered using this investment to build community policing training instead, for our police force?
4. Given the costs/investment involved in hiring trained operators, buying equipment, training the existing force, storing data, managing the data, disseminating the data, keeping track of shifting legislation, informing the public etc. has the city considered using this investment for any of the following community building initiatives in the near future:

     * Police image-building and goodwill events--community fair, walk up booths in neighborhoods, farmers markets etc.
     * Outreach in neighborhoods like Belle Haven where historically the police force is feared, mistrusted, and avoided at all costs
     * An education and prevention program for middle and high school students that focuses on drugs, vaping, petty crime etc.
     * Educational activities for city youth sponsored by the police department

Links to other articles about the grey zone of using drones on citizens:

I look forward to you all making the right decision in protecting the privacy and ethical rights of our citizens.


Pushpinder P. Lubana
Cell 650-644-8554

Received on Wed Dec 11 2019 - 09:43:41 PST

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