NYPD acquires new fleet of drones for 'response unit'

By Ed Adamczyk

Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The New York City Police Department said it's acquired a fleet of 14 drones and will deploy them as "unmanned aerial vehicles."

The NYPD announced Tuesday it will soon send out the UAVs through its Technical Assistance Response Unit.


"Whether it's a search and rescue mission, an inaccessible crime scene, a hostage situation, or a hazardous material incident, this technology will undoubtedly help keep New Yorkers and officers safe," the department said.

NYPD Chief Terence Monahan assured New Yorkers the drones would not violate residents' privacy.

"Let me be clear. NYPD drones will not be used for warrantless surveillances," he said, adding the drones offer many advantages that "it would be negligent for us not to utilize this technology."

Officials demonstrated some of the drones' capabilities Tuesday, showing how they could fly over a hazardous materials spill and a vehicle collision, and search for missing persons.

More than 900 police and fire agencies across the United States use drone technology, which have some civil libertarians concerned they could track innocent people and violate privacy laws. Some were critical of the NYPD's new technology.


"The NYPD's drone policy places no meaningful restrictions on police deployment of drones in New York City and opens the door to the police department building a permanent archive of drone footage of political activity and intimate private behavior visible only from the sky," Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union said in a statement. "We believe the new policy falls far short of what is needed to balance the department's legitimate law-enforcement needs against the privacy interests of New Yorkers."

New York's Legal Aid Society offered a similar assessment.

"The Department has a history of using powerful technology to unfairly target our clients and communities of color," it said. "Its continued unrestrained expansion will only further sow distrust and increase unequal treatment of our clients. This is a dangerous step towards the further militarization of the NYPD."

The Los Angeles Police Department approved a pilot program for drone testing last year, but they have not yet been deployed.

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