A spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has said the department is requesting the department be granted funds to purchase drones. They say the request stems from the belief that the use of this type of technology could help save lives. Opponents of the plan reportedly say the use of unmanned areal devices invades privacy and abuses power.
A former member of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department said he was among those who responded to a 1989 earthquake in which deputies spent hours conducting a search and rescue mission at the site of freeway collapse. Should a similar event take place in the future, he said, it would be in the interest of public safety to have a drone search for survivors as opposed to putting deputies’ lives at stake.
The department said the device they are requesting has a camera on its body that is located between four legs. It weighs about four pounds and the direction it travels is dictated by propellers. They are steadfast in their position that the drones would be an invaluable addition in terms of apprehending suspects, search and rescue and other emergency situations.
The cost to purchase a drone is approximately $4 million, they said, which is far less than the $3 million plus per-hour operating costs needed to acquire a helicopter.
The ACLU said they are actively invested in a vetting process to ensure drones are not used unlawfully. They have said their greatest concern is that they may be used to invade privacy and the types of safeguards which would need to be put in place to ensure that doesn’t happen.
A final vote on the matter has not yet taken place.