Monday, May 11, 2020

Police Agencies are Using Drones to Enforce Stay-at-Home Orders, Raising Concerns Among Civil Rights Groups

Janos Meszaros/AP
“This is the Daytona Beach Police Department. We apologize for the inconvenience, but due to COVID-19, this park is currently closed.”
So says a drone with a loud speaker attached to its top.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced police departments in the country and around the globe to fundamentally change the way they enforce laws. Police agencies are increasingly relying on these flying contraptions to do what they have not had to do before: policing while socially distancing. Over the past month, several law enforcement agencies have unveiled drones that broadcast announcements at parks, beaches and homeless camps to enforce stay-at-home orders and social-distancing guidelines.
In Daytona Beach, Florida, officials say the drones can also be used during rescue operations, such as giving a drowning person a life preserver without physical contact.
“We started thinking about ways of how we can limit the ability to transmit (COVID-19),” said Messod Bendayan, spokesman for the Daytona Beach Police Department. “Instead of risking an officer, we just fly the drone and have the drone speak a message. It keeps officers safe and keeps people safe.”
Rafiq Maqbool
But civil rights groups have pushed back against the use of such technology, saying some of its capabilities are invasive and pose constitutional dangers. These include the ability to detect someone’s body temperature from a distance. To civil rights and privacy advocates, this amounts to an indiscriminate warrantless search – obtaining the private health information of people who did not give consent and aren't under a criminal investigation.
“People have a right to privacy. You can’t just take their temperature without any reason. I think this is just an example of something that police departments have a tendency to do. Someone sells them on a new technology and they can come up with what they think is reason to use it and they use it, but they don’t necessarily think about how invasive it might be,” said Caleb Kruckenberg, litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance.
The Washington, D.C.-based group recently sent a letter asking the Daytona Beach Police Department to stop using drones that detect body temperatures.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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