Monday, June 9, 2014

The NYPD Still Won't Explain Its Drone Plans

Police officials in New York won't stop talking about the potential benefits of flying drones over the city. But when it comes to releasing records of its actual drone plans, the NYPD's response has been a unilateral stonewalling.

At a city council committee meeting last month, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton confirmed once again that his department is exploring drones as an addition to their surveillance inventory. “Myself, I’m supportive of the concept of drones, not only for police but for public safety in general,” the New York Daily News quoted Bratton as saying. “It’s something that we actively keep looking at and stay aware of.”

At the same meeting, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller, a former FBI spokesman and CBS reporter, told councilors, “You could see an application where a drone could be not only a very effective crime-fighting tool but could actually show you where the bad guys are going.”

But a series of records requests regarding drones and filed as part of the MuckRock/Motherboard Drone Census has only resulted in refusals by the NYPD Freedom of Information Law Unit.

The NYPD has been researching drones since at least 2010, according to emails first reported by Gay City News in August 2011. In December 2010, a detective from the NYPD Counterterrorism Division wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration to request assistance in tracking down experts and other police departments to talk to about unmanned reinforcements.

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