Seattle Police Consider Using Drones

seattle-drone--articleInline.jpgWe had quite a show last week as the Seattle Police held a public meeting to discuss their plans to use small surveillance drones for various purposes. Protesters made the meeting pretty much useless - lots of loud concern over civil liberties. I fear the coverage of offensive weaponized drones combined with a general concern over past misbehaviors by the police here have caused people to be especially suspicious of both the technology and the motives of the department.


The city is planning on spending app. $80,000 for two devices (which seems outrageous to me, but then again, I suspect they are getting a really good warranty).


I believe the ones they are looking at are the Draganflyer units (




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  • Tony, thats not asking questions, thats just protesting in a very ineffective manner.  Those people were not looking for answers, if they were they would have been sitting in seats but being very vocal in a more civil manner.  When you walk into a presentation meant to have some transparancy and yell louder than anyone else, all you do is make the other party look for ways to avoid that sort of situation in the future, making the entire thing less transparent.

    If they want change it wont' be the Police that gives them that.. it will be the state congress creating rules and regulations around flying quad copters, etc.

    My point is that this way of doing it does not move them in the direction of change that they are looking for but quite the opposite.

  • Have any of you reviewed the SPD's draft UAS Operating Manual? I want SPD to create a website for their UAS. It should have videos of training missions as well as an hour presentation without protesters. The public should be able to see how effective, efficient, safe, legal, etc the UAS really is.

    I wish the courts would come out with a decision on when police need a warrant for using a UAV, see Wikipedia Florida v. Riley. It seems like the only reason the court would require a warrant is if a UAV with thermal imaging found a marijuana farm, see Wikipedia Kyllo v. United States
  • I didn't say the judges do not decide, I said they're not the final arbiter.  I will agree that if people are to cowardly to stand for their principles then the judges will be the final arbiter of everything.

  • Actually, the courts do decide how the constitution is to be applied - it's called judicial review and has been the way things work since Marbury v. Madison. 


    That said, I think the police did the right thing in presenting their case publicly - but in Seattle, they really don't have much choice. This way it gets people talking an thinking and it allows people to vent. Then the rules will get written and things will move on. I do wish the loud anarchic stuff would get toned down since there were a number of people at the event who ended up not being able to ask and get answered and so left without learning what they went there to learn.


    One thing protesters should consider is whether their right to be loud and obnoxious in advance of anything worth yelling about actually furthers or hinders their cause.

  • Timothy Clemans said: "The fourth amendment doesn't apply to them."  This is exactly to whom the Fourth Amendment applies.  Just because some jackass judge says it doesn't apply does not make it so.  The people are the final arbiter of the law.

  • Mark, so you're basically saying that to get a transparent government we must never go ask questions of that government?  While I don't agree with the manner in which some of the people behaved, the right to question your government does not come with restrictions on the way in which you ask the questions.  Whey you say the departments will use theme no matter what the people say is exactly why they should not be allowed to even have them.

  • These people have done exactly the opposite to what they were hoping which is that they have made the SPD less transparent and open about their use of drones which if any department wants to they will regardless.

    The SPD doesn't have to do events like this were they provide some transparency to what they plan on doing and get feedback from people that live there...  with this sort of thing they will be a heck of a lot less likely to even do events like this.

    So yeah they effectively have done the opposite to what thay had been hoping to do.

  • I'm not a fan of the border patrol or TSA. The fourth amendment doesn't apply to them. Border patrol has drones. I don't know how many. I want drones for finding murder suspects and missing children. I don't want drones for finding drugs, speeding vehicles, etc.

  • So would you be accepting of drone use for boarder patrol? Which I would thing DHS would be more likely to fund then a urban police force.
  • The community will accept drones when drones start rapidly finding violent criminals and aren't abused. If I were in charge of SPD I would have a strict policy, publicly report the drone's activity after a given incident is over, and work hard to find violent criminals with it.

    Mark, the drones SPD has now won't be very useful. The concern is a few decades now when they will have the money and legal authority to operate long-range drones.

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