Tom Zebra teamed up with the Free Thought Project last week to take aerial video of a Los Angeles Police Department station. After officers initially warned Tom (aka Daniel Saulmon) that flying his DJI Phantom over the station parking lot was a trespassing violation, the department has since learned the limits of the law.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
Los Angeles police on Friday said they have asked the city attorney’s office and county prosecutors to explore whether they can legally prohibit civilians from flying drones with cameras over department-owned parking lots. Though a sergeant who confronted the pilot and three other people said he believed filming inside the parking lot was trespassing, it may not be that clear cut.
Although the Federal Aviation Administration has regulations about how private businesses and law enforcement can use drones, there are few rules covering the casual hobbyist. The FAA said recreational drone use is generally permitted as long as pilots don’t fly recklessly.
While an LAPD Sergeant spent five minutes explaining to Saulmon that he would treat aerial photography over the LAPD Hollywood Division parking lot as a trespass, the LAPD has now learned what PINAC reported over three months ago – that aerial photography is also not a crime.
During Saulmon’s first amendment audit last week, he encountered police questioning and threats of criminal charges within minutes. One officer driving through the parking lot gate asked Saulmon if he was a police officer. A group of officers then came outside to notify Saulmon he was liable to be arrested on a trespass charge.
While the LAPD is currently seeking ways to prosecute aerial photography, users on the police-friendly site policeone came up with their own ideas. Multiple users suggested that officers use a small frequency jammer to cause quadcopters like Saulmon’s to crash and break. Another user suggested that “Flying over a police station or military base should get you in hot water. Got to make some laws.”
And several simply suggested blasting it out of the sky with a shotgun, then claiming it made them fear for their lives.
The idea that people in uniform should have more rights than everyone else – and the demonizing of free speech – are symptoms of worshiping at the altar of authoritarian government. The police-groupie parishioners in the church of government see enemies all around them because they are full of (self) hate and fear. While we must stand up for our rights, the most effective way to change the police state is to promote the opposite of hate and fear. Love conquers all.
UPDATE: From Reason Magazine.
The California Assembly has passed a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before using a surveillance drone as part of a criminal investigation. The bill specifically states:
(a) A public agency shall not use an unmanned aircraft system, or contract for the use of an unmanned aircraft system, except as provided in this title. This title shall apply to all public and private entities when contracting with a public agency for the use of an unmanned aircraft system.
(b) A law enforcement agency may use an unmanned aircraft system if it has obtained a warrant based on probable cause pursuant to this code.
(c) (1) A law enforcement agency, without obtaining a warrant, may use an unmanned aircraft system in emergency situations if there is an imminent threat to life or of great bodily harm, including, but not limited to, fires, hostage crises, “hot pursuit” situations if reasonably necessary to prevent harm to law enforcement officers or others, and search and rescue operations on land or water.
(2) A law enforcement agency, without obtaining a warrant, may use an unmanned aircraft system to assess the necessity of first responders in situations relating to traffic accidents, and to inspect state parks and wilderness areas for illegal vegetation, vegetation or fires.
(d) (1)A public agency other than a law enforcement agency may use an unmanned aircraft system, or contract for the use of an unmanned aircraft system, to achieve the core mission of the agency provided that the purpose is unrelated to the gathering of criminal intelligence.