SJPD to lay out plans for use of drone with concerned citizens

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Controversy surrounds the San Jose Police Department's purchase of a drone without public discussion over how it will be used or what policies will govern its use.

San Jose police made amends with residents Wednesday night with a public meeting where they laid out plans for the use of a newly acquired drone. It was purchased through a federal grant without explaining how it will be used, or developing policies for its use.

Anyone can walk out of a store with a drone for as little as a few hundred dollars. For many, it has become a hobby or a tool for videographers. According to Peter Chao of Century Helicopters and Drone there are about 5,000 drones in the Silicon Valley.

If San Jose police have their way, there will be one more, a Century Neo 660.

Officers want to use it to check out suspected explosive devices, or to assess hostage situations.

Professional drone pilot Steve Hall launched one of his drones over Cesar Chavez Park in downtown San Jose to demonstrate how it can be easily maneuvered to check out an equipment box on the ground. Unlike a helicopter, police can have a drone in the air in three minutes.

Of course, it can also be used to peer through windows, which creates privacy concerns. Hall looked into the fifth floor windows the ABC7 News San Jose bureau with his drone.

Inevitably, the sight and sound of a drone draws attention. People tend to stare at it. ABC7 News asked people if they thought it would be a good tool for police or an invasion of privacy.

"With everything going on with kidnappings and people being crazy, sure, that would be a great use for the police department," Viv Duncan, a San Jose resident, said.

"Maybe some regulation or registration, some kind of tracking of technology is going to be necessary," Technology Company Executive Andy Havington said.

Police are running into criticism it acquired its drone before gauging public input or explaining how it will be used. Some lawmakers think it's time to tap on the brakes.

"This is one of those times I think where we need to take our time, sort through the issues, and then make a decision," Santa Clara Supervisor Joe Simitian said.

The California ACLU wants public discussion.

"Community members and policy makers know that it is time to turn things around and make sure that local communities are the ones that decide when and why surveillance systems are going to be used," Nicole Ozer of the ACLU said.

Related Topics:
technologySJPDdronesdepartment of homeland securityACLUrobotspolicesurveillanceSan Jose
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