Pierce County soon to decide on limiting drone use

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by AMY MORENO / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 18, 2013 at 10:48 PM

Pierce county leaders will soon decide on legislation to limit the use of drone surveillance by county government.  So far, there isn't a formal proposal to start using drones, but one lawmaker says they need to set the ground rules now.

 
The drones are being tested by a handful of law enforcement agencies across the country.  Seattle recently put its program on hold.
 
Some Pierce County leaders say the cameras could end up in their communities. County Councilmember Dan Roach proposed the legislation and says it might soon be used by many agencies.
 
“When it becomes more prolific, every agency is going to be using drone technology,” said Roach.  
 
The proposal recently passed the council’s public safety committee and could be voted on next month.
 
“We want to hold our agencies accountable for how they're going to use this technology,” he said.  
 
The proposed legislation limits how drones are used by county government, but still allows their use in some circumstances.  Roach says search and rescue operations and situations where someone is in “imminent danger” would be acceptable.
 
Those opposed to the proposal says it's unnecessary since both law enforcement and county departments like code enforcement don't have any immediate plans to use it.   
 
“This is more pre-emptive because we know its coming and we need to have something in place,” Roach said. “Once it gets here: to try and reel it back in is very difficult to do.”
 
The issue that this legislation doesn't address is the use of the cameras by private citizens.   Roach says that may be the next step for them to consider when trying protecting people’s privacy
 
“I'm not a conspiracy theorist, I don't think someone's out watching me at all times but the same token it can happen,” said Roach.
 
These drones with cameras attached can be purchased at hobby stores and other chains. There has been some concern that while law enforcement could face limits; private citizens can use airspace outside homes without many restrictions.

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