Seattle's mayor on Thursday ordered the police department to abandon
its plan to use drones after residents and privacy advocates protested.
Mike McGinn said the department will not use two small drones it
obtained through a federal grant. The unmanned aerial vehicles will be
returned to the vendor, he said.
"Today I spoke with
Seattle Police Chief John Diaz, and we agreed that it was time to end
the unmanned aerial vehicle program, so that SPD can focus its resources
on public safety and the community building work that is the
department's priority," the mayor said in a brief statement.
The decision comes as the debate over drones heats up across the country. Lawmakers in at least 11 states
are looking at plans to restrict the use of drones over their skies
amid concerns the vehicles could be exploited to spy on Americans.
Seattle Police Department previously said it would use drones to
provide an overhead view of large crime scenes, serious accidents,
disasters, and search and rescue operations. It had conducted
demonstrations of the drones to show the public their capabilities.
program drew strong criticism from residents Wednesday at a meeting of
the City Council, which was considering an ordinance giving police the
authority to use drones.
The proposed measure would have
allowed the use of drones for data collection but barred police from
using them over "open-air assembly of people" or for general
surveillance. The drones would have carried no weapons, but the proposal
would have allowed police to use face-recognition software in them.
police department had purchased two Draganflyer X6 vehicles, which have
a width of 36 inches, length of 33.5 inches and stand just under a
foot. The drones are capable of flying indoors and outdoors and carry a
camera, according to the company website.
The department had not yet begun using the drones but had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
of the program's key adversaries was the Washington chapter of the
American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the drones were obtained
without any public input or discussion.
"We applaud the
mayor's action," spokesman Doug Honig said Thursday. "Drones would have
given the police unprecedented abilities to engage in surveillance and
intrude on the privacy of people in Seattle ... and there was a never a
strong case made that Seattle needed them for public safety."
forward, the ACLU would like to see the Legislature adopt "very tight
restrictions" on law-enforcement drones statewide, Honig said.
to the use of drones in the U.S. has come from opposite sides of the
political spectrum, including civil liberties advocates and those
worried over government intrusion.
On Monday, the
Charlottesville City Council, in Virginia, passed a resolution imposing a
two-year moratorium on the use of drones within city limits. The
Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group behind the city's effort,
said Charlottesville is the first city in the country to limit the use
of drones by police.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
drones do enter Washington airspace occasionally, patrolling the
Canadian border east of the Cascade mountains. The two 10,000-pound
Predator-B unmanned aircraft are based in North Dakota.
Meanwhile, CIA Director-designate John Brennan strongly defended
anti-terror attacks by unmanned drones abroad Thursday under
questioning at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence
Committee. Brennan said drone strikes are used only against targets
planning to carry out attacks against the United States, never as
retribution for an earlier one.
30px; border: solid 2px #333; color: #000; background-color: yellow; padding: 5px; width: 400px; z-index: 5; font-family: verdana, geneva, arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: large;">
My blog has moved!You should be automatically redirected in 5 seconds. If not, visit redirectLink" href='http://blendz72.wordpress.com/'> http://blendz72.wordpress.com and update your bookmarks.