No spy drones in Seattle

Since their advent, drones have been an increasingly popular tool in the world of para-military technology. From allowing troops to peer around corners, to targeting and eliminating an individual at range, all without risking American life, it is not surprising that drone use have flourished on the battlefield. But not all are retrofitted for war. Many models are designed for simple reconnaissance, capable of sending live video feed of any given target from long distance, and yet small enough to be mistaken for a bird on the horizon. Not to be mistaken with the clunky, bomb dropping Unmanned aerial vehicles commonly used overseas, this particular variety has begun active duty on native soil.

Substantial grants have been given by the United States government to law enforcement agencies in cities across the country for the sake of purchasing and maintaining drones. Seattle became one of the first such cities when its police department purchased two models of the Draganflyer X6. Capable of a max altitude of eight thousand feet and weighing in at four and a half pounds, the Seattle Police Department boasted of the signifigant drop in crime the security system would provide society. Yet Seattle was very vocal in its dissent, and Mayor McGinn has recently ordered the decommissioning and return of the two UAV vehicles they had purchased earlier this year. Likely a bid to regain voter faith with election season on the horizon, his opponents are seemingly left with no option but to be even aggressive on privacy violation than McGinn, namely addressing concerns with new surveillance cameras lining Alki, part of a projected 30 cameras to be connected in a chillingly Orwellian comprehensive surveillance system. But is ‘Big Brother’ really the menace that fearful skeptics portray it as?

The Seattle Police Department adamantly stood by their decision to get the drones in the first place, insisting that they had been operating under strict rules of use and the fear that these ‘Spy Eyes’ were being deployed above groups of people as a watching device is absurd. The intent of such drones among public safety workers was to be oriented towards extremely dangerous situations where the police could not risk their own lives to assess the danger, such as hostage situations or structure fires, with severe punishments to any officer found breaking regulation.

To this reporter, their claims of prudence are arbitrary. No matter the intended use, these drones are an extraordinarily powerful tool that the average citizen cannot defend from. The police of this country have become far too used to access to the newest weapons, on the faltering idea that police forces are somehow more trustworthy than the average person. As Congress moves to further restrict what weapons you or I might own, are we to further the growing gap of defenses between the police and those they’ve sworn to protect? In the end, the only legitimate purpose to any para-military force in this country, is to protect and serve. Far too often have these forces been allowed to keep the peace they feel is necessary, and the removal of these machines is a step away from dystopia.