Will Alameda County Be Getting That Drone?

From Nadia Kayyali at the People’s Blog for the Constitution http://www.constitutioncampaign.org:

The next step for Alameda is unclear. It was first revealed that the Sheriff intended to purchase a drone in October of last year, although he began looking in to the possibility as early as October of 2011. The community and civil liberties advocates responded quickly, urging the county not to rush in to the purchase. Community advocates emphasized their concerns about militarization of police at a time when Alameda County is suffering a budgetary crises and limited social services.

After pressure, the Board referred the matter to the Public Protection committee, and yesterday’s hearing was scheduled. However, both supervisors noted that they were unclear on what action they would be taking. The purchase will likely require taxpayer funding, which would potentially have to be approved by the board. The Sheriff has also made no indication of whether he would purchase a drone against the objections of the Board or committee, although he has noted that deployment is at least a year away. Although the hearing ended without a resolution, both Supervisors expressed some concerns. Supervisor Scott Haggerty stated that the hearing left him with questions, although he seemed optimistic that the sheriff needed no oversight and that the drone would perform as the sheriff stated. Supervisor Richard Valle took a more cautionary tone, stating: “I have a real concern about the bill of rights, in particular, the Fourth amendment and the right to privacy. Those are paramount.”

He seemed skeptical about the argument that potential public safety benefits trumped civil rights, and stated that he would be watching the developments at the state and federal level as well as continuing to work on the policy in Alameda County.