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Legislation backed by ACLU restricts law enforcement's drone use in Minnesota

Legislation backed by ACLU restricts law enforcement’s drone use in Minnesota

The state legislature has passed a first of its kind bill that put restrictions on Minnesota’s law enforcement’s use of drones. The bill was signed into law by Governor Tim Walz on May 16 after winning near-unanimous approval from the legislature. As a result, law enforcement agencies will have to get a warrant before using a drone, unless an exception applies.

Law enforcement’s drone use in Minnesota restricted by ACLU-backed law

The exemptions include situations such as during, or in the aftermath of a public emergency, for officer training or public relations purposes, or to collect information over a public area is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity exists. These and other exceptions resulted from lengthy negotiations law enforcement groups like the Minnesota Sheriffs Association and civil liberties groups like the Minnesota American Civil Liberties Union.

“A vast majority of drone use is used to look for lost individuals, or to assist the city or the county in other ways,” Minnesota Sheriffs Association President Bill Hutton said, according to the Lonsdale Area News-Review. “There’s a misconception that drone use is mostly used for surveillance, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, and his Senate colleague Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove authored the bill.

Going forward law enforcement agencies are now required to document each use of drones, create a written policy governing its use, and solicit public feedback on drone usage. All data that is collected by drones on individuals other than the intended target has to be disposed of within seven days unless the data collected provides evidence of criminal activity.

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Haye Kesteloo

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