The Los Angeles City Council voted earlier this month to accept a donation of small aerial drones from the Los Angeles Police Foundation. The drones, which will be used by the Los Angeles Police Department’s SWAT team for a one-year pilot program, were valued at $31,528, city documents showed
According to the LAPD small unmanned aerial vehicle deployment guidelines, the drones will not be deployed with on-board weapons, and will only be used for information-gathering purposes. Furthermore, the drones will only be used when dealing with armed suspects or bomb threats. They will also see use during natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, and search-and-rescue operations. Drone maintenance will be funded by the Police Foundation as well.
These guidelines can only be changed through votes by the Board of Police Commissioners, the Public Safety Committee and the City Council. But despite regulations, many complained that the pilot program was not in the best interests of Los Angeles residents.
“I am not satisfied that this department has done what it should do and needs to do in order to build the trust that is required to support the implementation of this technology,” Los Angeles police commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill said last October, before voting against the pilot program.
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the vote was attended by a crowd of protesters, some of which chanted “Shame on you!” as the vote took place. The American Civil Liberties Union also protested the vote, which resulted in a 3-1 vote in favor of the pilot program.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck spoke after the decision, and assured the public that drones would only be deployed in extreme circumstances, and that public concerns were addressed in the guidelines.
“You see the discussions that are happening,” Beck said. “And you can see that written in this policy.”