There is that expression that you can’t escape the long arm of the law. Well, it looks like technology is set to extend those arms just a little bit more as police seek more assistance from the air with fleets of drones. Vancouver police were recently granted approval from the Vancouver Police Board to start using three drones in their operations.
Eyes in the sky have always been a tactical advantage for the police when it comes to fighting crime. If you have been on YouTube or watched the TV program Cops, it’s quite clear that helicopters are a critical tool for tracking down and arresting criminals. This is especially true for night vision that can easily track down heat signatures of people hiding or running from police.
With the advent of drone technology it would only be natural for law enforcement to salivate at the possibilities. Less expensive than a helicopter, drones could put more eyes in the sky. Due to their stealthy nature, many suspects won’t know they are being watched or followed by a drone. With all their advantages, it could be very easy to go overboard with drone usage and the police are very self-aware of this fact it seems.
With privacy sensitivity at the forefront, the Vancouver police created their policy for drone use with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the BC Civil Liberties Association. People have their right to privacy and being recorded and watched in public places rubs people the wrong way.
Vancouver police are not looking to use drones for random surveillance or for shooting down illegal drones—at least not yet. Instead, they are presenting this to the public as a new investigation tool and for search and rescue purposes, but their policy also includes use in highly volatile situations and monitoring big crowds at gatherings such as the Celebration of Light fireworks.
Imagine police drones randomly watching people and having a police officer barking out orders as they see you doing something illegal. In China this did happen. A person on a scooter without a helmet was seen by a police drone and the police spoke through the drone loudspeaker telling the person to put on their helmet. Drone surveillance of citizens is real and does happen but Canada obviously isn’t China.
Drone use by law enforcement is an inevitability. Many police departments in Canada already have them in use and it only seems logical that every department will have drones in their arsenal eventually. So long as privacy watchdogs are out there, citizens of Canada shouldn’t have too much to worry about when it comes to random surveillance or privacy breaches. As bad as drones are for the criminals out there, we still think police dogs will be feared more.