Shaker Heights Debates Police Drone Purchase Amid Safety and Privacy Concerns

Debate Continues Over Police Department Request for Drones

The Shaker Heights City Council continues to debate the department's request to purchase a $30,000 drone using forfeiture money. The discussion gained new urgency following a recent standoff involving an armed suspect, reports Cleveland.com, highlighting the potential benefits and concerns surrounding drone use.

A Standoff Demonstrates Drone Utility

This past Sunday, police were involved in a standoff outside a Shaker Heights apartment complex in with an armed man linked to the shooting death of Euclid police officer Jacob Derbin. During the incident, drones on loan were deployed to gather intelligence, which was crucial for the responding officers.

“We saw the drone's importance in handling the incident this weekend,” retired Willoughby Assistant Fire Chief Scott Mlakar told the council. The drones provided immediate intelligence, allowing officers to stay safe on the ground. “Rather than sending police in, the drone goes looking for an armed suspect,” Mlakar said, emphasizing that drones can act as “de-escalation and situational awareness tools.”

Safety vs. Privacy: The Ongoing Debate

Shaker Police Chief Wayne Hudson supports the drone purchase, citing officer safety in high-risk situations. However, some council members remain wary of public sector drone applications, concerned about privacy and Fourth Amendment rights. Councilman Sean Malone expressed the potential for abuse, despite public safety agencies being regulated by oversight commissions.

Jason Lorenzon from Kent State University addressed the council on aspects of drone law, advocating for collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish proper legislation. “You either legislate things into existence, or you litigate them later,” Lorenzon remarked.

Finding Common Ground

Mayor David Weiss suggested looking at other communities' legislation to guide Shaker Heights' policies. Councilman Ifeolu A.C. Claytor recommended evaluating similar communities' policies to inform their decisions. Meanwhile, Councilwoman Nancy Moore inquired about continuing to use guidelines set by Lexipol, an organization providing standardized policies and training for law enforcement.

Vice Mayor Carmella Williams stressed the need to balance giving useful tools while addressing privacy concerns. The council also plans to seek input from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Policy Matters Ohio.

As Shaker Heights City Council deliberates the police department's request for a drone, the debate balances the critical safety benefits against potential privacy infringements. The recent standoff illustrated the practical advantages of drones, but the council must carefully consider legislative and ethical guidelines to protect the community's rights while enhancing public safety.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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