Target: California Governor Jerry Brown
Goal: Require warrants for the use of drones for surveillance by law enforcement
Los Angeles was gifted two drones for the purpose of surveillance by Seattle law enforcement after public outcry over their intended use made it clear that Seattle’s citizens would not stand for the invasion of privacy. California is now faced with the question of how to proceed with the new technology at its disposal. California Assembly bill AB 1327 would join California with the 13 states before it that elected to require warrants for the use of unmanned aerial aircraft for surveillance purposes. All the bill needs to become law is either a decision by California’s Governor Brown or, barring his involvement, a decision by the courts.
The bill allows for drone use in emergency situations: first responders, search-and-rescue and wildfire inspection can all be assisted by the aircraft. The bill specifically targets the unchecked use of drones by law enforcement for purposes of surveillance. While the courts may well pass the law if Governor Brown refuses to, it typically takes much longer to await court decisions, leaving California citizens at risk of serious invasions of privacy. In 2012, GPS tracking by law enforcement was deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Unfortunately, it took three years for the courts to be able to address the issue, leaving law enforcement with cheap, easy, accurate technology and few guidelines for its use in that time.
Urge Governor Brown to sign AB 1327 into law and restrict the abusive use of this burgeoning technology by law enforcement.
Dear Governor Brown,
Drone technology in law enforcement can provide cost-effective and accurate surveillance. If unchecked, however, it can also seriously invade the privacy of citizens and allow unmitigated abusive practices by law enforcement. AB 1327 specifically targets the use of drones for surveillance by law enforcement without warrants. The bill allows for the assistance of unmanned aircraft in emergency situations, for search-and-rescue, wildfire inspection—especially useful in California—and for first responders. It does not keep law enforcement from the technology, but simply enforces procedure for its use.
Issues regarding the rights of citizens—such as the Fourth Amendment rights inherent in drone surveillance—are often best left to the courts to decide. Unfortunately, that takes time and may not accurately represent the local public’s best interest. While awaiting a court decision, the use of drones by law enforcement is not being restricted in the best interest of the citizens of the Golden State.
I urge you to pass AB 1327 and protect Californians from the abuses of over reaching law enforcement.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Flying Eye via Wikimedia Commons