LA County Sheriff's Department Drone Program Sparks Controversey


The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) announced a drone program last week with the intention of using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to help with various life safety missions such as rescues, disasters, and other high-risk missions.

LASD thought they had covered all the bases. They had conducted significant research into how to properly structure the program and had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which regulates airspace in the United States.

Apparently that wasn't enough.

Los Angeles County's Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved a motion that will give the board oversight on the LASD drone program. The Office of the Inspector General will now review the drone program and submit a report to the Civilian Oversight Commission. The commission will ask the sheriff’s department and the public for additional information and present its findings to the board. “The purpose of the motion was to help provide a layer of transparency,” said First District Supervisor Hilda Solis, a Democrat who introduced the motion. “While I’m hearing from the community they have various concerns, many of us understand that. And I think this is at least one step in the direction to provide more transparency for the public as well as for the Board of Supervisors.”

Obviously, this demonstrates the continued skepticism with which many community groups and members continue to perceive drones in the hands of law enforcement personnel. Public safety agencies must heed this climate by establishing buy-in and approval from all stakeholders from the outset to avoid facing these types of dilemmas -- especially after holding a very public news conference to tout the new technology.

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