Restrict drones, yes; ban completely? No

Thursday, February 14, 2013

We once were criticized for describing the appearance of street-level viewing on Google Earth as "unsettling."

Somehow, we weren't supposed to be concerned that someone in Kazakhstan could log on and find out what color our bedroom windows are, or who's sitting on our porch smoking a cigarette.

Now comes concern in the Legislature that law enforcement might join the U.S. military in using the latest in technology, drones.

Sen. Paul Schumacher's bill, to be heard by the Judiciary Committee today, would prevent local and state law enforcement from using drones, something that will be more and more tempting as technology becomes cheaper and more advanced.

It's a nationwide concern, one that the Federal Aviation Administration is addressing and one that is under consideration in at least 11 states.

American drones are unlikely to carry Hellfire missiles like they do in Afghanistan, but the idea of government robots spying on us is certainly "unsettling."

On the other hand, within proper guidelines, there is no reason law enforcement should be arbitrarily deprived of access to the latest technology.

An officer should not have to wait hours for a multi-million-dollar helicopter to arrive to assist in an aerial search that could just as well be conducted with a drone that costs a few thousand dollars and can be carried in a suitcase in the trunk of a patrol car. That's especially true, for example, when a drone with infrared sensors might be able to quickly detect an escaped prisoner or a child lost in a cornfield.

Now is a good time for lawmakers to think about possible abuse of drone technology by government agencies at all levels. Banning them outright, however, is going too far.

Should local law enforcement agencies be allowed to use drones?

Your comments about the poll question: (Optional)

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: