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LAPD Gets Some Hand-Me-Down Drones From Seattle, Promises Discretion 108

Posted by timothy
from the orange-groves-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see dept.
After Seattleites objected to the local police department's plan to deploy unmanned aircraft, that plan was withdrawn. Now, it seems, Seattle has found a willing recipient for some of the drones that it no longer has use for: the Los Angeles Police Department. From the linked article: "The Draganflyer X6 aircraft, which resemble small helicopters, are each about 3 feet wide and equipped with a camera, video camera and infrared night-vision capabilities. In making the announcement, however, department officials were at pains to make it clear the LAPD doesn't intend to use the new hardware to keep watch from above over an unsuspecting public. If they're used at all, the remotely controlled aircraft will be called on only for "narrow and prescribed uses" that will be made clear to the public, the statement said."
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LAPD Gets Some Hand-Me-Down Drones From Seattle, Promises Discretion

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  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @11:49PM (#47139345) Journal

    The US House of Representatives passed H.R. 4660 yesterday, ... prohibit local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies from purchasing or using unmanned aircraft based on privacy concerns....So the next time a quad copter in the hands of a law enforcement agency could have potentially found a lost hiker, or monitored a wildfire etc.. I guess you're out of luck....

    Depends on where you live, I suppose.

    Here in the heart of the Rocky Mountains our search and rescue organizations are separate from law enforcement, covered under the department of public safety. Basically search and rescue is a sibling organization to the county sheriff offices.

    I agree with the representative; I do not want the local LEOs to use drones for just about any reason. But I don't mind other governmental agencies, like search and rescue, fire departments, the department of wildlife resources, and other non-LEO organizations, using them for public good.

  • Re:Figures... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sir Holo (531007) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @12:00AM (#47139377)
    Well, LAPD flies their helicopters at less than 50 feet altitude, in the middle of the night, in Santa Monica — which is NOT in their jurisdiction.

    I've seen 4 X 8 foot panels of plywood flying around a home-remodeling site across the street due to the helicopter down-draft. And this was on a night with no major crimes. That is, it was "just for practice." Never mind that the public, whom they are supposed to protect and to serve, are being awakened for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night, and suffer property damage.

    Having personally observed the above behavior, it's essentially guaranteed that TFA's drones will be used in an escalating series of invasive methods – especially ones that the law does not yet specifically prohibit.

    LAPD have long been known to be excessively power-hungry, abusive, racist, and eager to use excessive force. These drones are just another tool to enable their continuing subjugation of the citizenry.
  • Numbers... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by westlake (615356) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @12:13AM (#47139415)

    It figures it'd be the LAPD. What other police force on the west coast would hunger for this kind of invasiveness?

    There is nothing on the west coast like the LAPD.

    With 10,023 officers and 2,879 civilian staff, it is the third-largest local law enforcement agency in the United States, after the New York City Police Department and the Chicago Police Department. The department serves an area of 498 square miles (1,290 km2) and a population of 3,792,621 people as of the 2010 Census.

    Los Angeles Police Department [wikipedia.org]

    LAPD acquires two drones, to consider employing them for 'narrow' use [nydailynews.com]

    The X6 is a spy drone with wireless video and still cameras (in hi-def, infra-red and 0 lux flavors) that can fly autonomously, or as a remote-controlled bot. It has 11 sensors (including gyros, accelerometers, barometers, magnetometers and GPS) and is so easy to pilot, a Wii gamer could do it. Now it will be used by the Ontario Provincial Police and the Saskatoon Police to patrol crime scenes and help gather evidence.

    The Draganflyer X6 UAV Police Edition [gizmodo.com]

    [March 2009]

  • by Marful (861873) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @12:43AM (#47139489)
    Even the LAPD needs a license.

    As per the FAA website:

    Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft
    http://www.faa.gov/news/update... [faa.gov]

    Myth #3: Commercial UAS operations are a “gray area” in FAA regulations.

    Fact—There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations. Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval. Private sector (civil) users can obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate to conduct research and development, training and flight demonstrations. Commercial UAS operations are limited and require the operator to have certified aircraft and pilots, as well as operating approval. To date, only two UAS models (the Scan Eagle and Aerovironment’s Puma) have been certified, and they can only fly in the Arctic. Public entities (federal, state and local governments, and public universities) may apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)

  • by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Sunday June 01, 2014 @01:37AM (#47139597)
    hardware. I was a teenager when they got their first (used military) assault vehicle. They had the 80mm smoothbore cannon replaced with a battering ram. They "needed" it to serve no-knock warrants on hardened drug houses.

    At what point did the LAPD cease to be a police organization and become a military one (owing allegiance to the Mayor and city of Los Angeles instead of the US federal government)? They use military hardware and tactics. In some instances, I can understand the need; now that criminals are using hardened installations, body armor, automatic/paramilitary weapons, there needs to be a capacity for law enforcement to respond in kind. What I find lacking is the oversight. As nearly as I can determine, the only thing reining in the private paramilitary organization created by (now retired) police chief Daryl Gates is often civilians with cell-phone cameras.

    LAPD - "To Protect and Serve" has seemingly be replaced with "We'll treat you like a King".

  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @03:45AM (#47139841) Journal

    As per the FAA website:

    As much as the FAA would love to regulate model aircraft, the guidelines generally don't apply. When they recently tried to enforce the rules (suing because a radio controlled meter-long craft was not piloted by an FAA-certified pilot) they were challenged in court - and lost.

    There has been ONE case where the FAA actually tried to sue a model aircraft pilot in the past.

    It is still going through the appeals process, but it doesn't look good for the FAA. It lost the case in a summary judgement that completely emasculated the FAA's claims on regulating model aircraft.

    The judge basically reviewed the regulations and the definitions. None of the FAA policies appear directed at these small craft. All the regulations the judge found were discussing large, manned craft, or large unmanned craft, or large experimental aircraft. The law they rely on for their authority are based on large craft, and the current actual regulation for the smaller model aircraft is a simple safety guideline asking (not requiring under law) that certain polite behavior be followed, such as flying away from airports and under certain heights.

    The judge found in the summary judgement that the FAA rules are regulations are built around certified pilots with so many hours in flight school, filing flight plans to ensure the craft do not interfere with military and commercial airlines, and tend to refer to large aircraft requiring airports and runways and high altitudes ... and they say nothing specific about model craft.

    And of course, the judge noted, all the FAA guidelines and requirements mandated that the person operating a little 2-stick remote control have an FAA license with mandatory in-air flight time, noting it as being a nonsensical requirement for model aircraft. The summary judgement had little gems like calling the FAA guidelines "incompatible with the law", not "binding upon the general public",

    The trial court judge also ruled that FAA policy notices are not binding law generally. As much as the FAA keeps claiming on their publications and policies that their word is the absolute law, the judge felt it was not. In part, any government mandated official policy has a bunch of requirements about comment periods, minimum time between posting and effectiveness, etc., and the FAA does not follow the legal requirements. It may be policy internally within the FAA, and the FAA can challenge FAA-certified pilots with violations that suspend their license, but it doesn't look the FAA currently has any jurisdiction on model pilots. Of course, as mentioned, appeal is pending, but it is improbable to succeed.

    I cannot, in any way, fathom the appeal courts accepting that every person flying a model aircraft must have an FAA-issued pilots license, file flight plans for their model aircraft, notify ground control at the inception of flight, maintain radio contact with FAA systems, and so on. Every little kid with a little battery-powered glider would be facing enormous fines, payable to the FAA's general fund. There is no way that is happening.

  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @12:33PM (#47141527) Journal

    The only accurate way to talk about "discretion" when talking about the LAPD (or indeed any major police department and nearly every smaller one) is along with the phrase "abuse of".

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