Ohio Lawmaker Proposes Requiring Warrants for Police Drone Surveillance

Legislation Aims to Balance Public Trust and Effective Policing

As departments across Northeast increasingly adopt , State Representative Bernie Willis is pushing for legislation that would require law enforcement to obtain search warrants for drone surveillance. House Bill 149 aims to strike a balance between maintaining public and allowing police to effectively utilize drones in critical situations, reports News 5 Cleveland.

Rep. Willis emphasized the need for groundwork before the widespread rollout of , stating, “Those things started to roll out ahead of a lot of other ground work that needed to be done. We want it to happen without having a lot of the public trust issues that we've been working on for probably a decade and a half now to ensure we can integrate these systems to do really great things.”

Exceptions for Life-Saving Situations

The proposed legislation includes exceptions for pressing matters that could save lives.

“We left the boundaries open so if they say we had to use it for this just like any other system right they might have to come back and answer that question of why did you use it and was it appropriate to do it,” Rep. Willis explained.

Warrants would also not be required for weather catastrophes, recording evidence at crime scenes, and car crashes.

Police Perspective: Drones Enhance Capabilities

Police Union President Andy Gasiewski believes most situations where drones would be used involve plain view, similar to helicopters.

“I would recommend it to be definitely to plain view to be open just like it has been for helicopters,” Gasiewski said.

Parma Police Sgt. Rick Morgan demonstrated the effectiveness of drones, stating, “Yes. Cause it gets there quicker and it sees the same thing,” when asked if drones were better than helicopters.

Morgan highlighted a recent case where a drone helped locate suspected carjackers in Cleveland, leading to their apprehension.

Expert Concerns: Hindering Law Enforcement

However, national police and security expert Tim Dimoff argues that requiring warrants for drone surveillance could hinder effective law enforcement.

“I think it hinders good law enforcement procedure,” Dimoff said, adding that it takes away from gathering good objective evidence. He noted that entering a building with a drone already requires a search warrant.

DroneXL's Take

The debate over requiring warrants for surveillance reflects the ongoing challenge of balancing public trust and effective law enforcement in an era of rapidly advancing technology. While drones offer significant benefits in terms of speed, cost-effectiveness, and enhanced situational awareness compared to traditional methods like helicopters, it is crucial to establish clear guidelines and oversight to prevent potential misuse and protect civil liberties.

As the Cleveland Police Department develops its drone program policy, it should carefully consider the concerns raised by Rep. Willis' proposed legislation and work to maintain transparency and accountability in its use of drones. By proactively engaging with the community and establishing trust, police can harness the power of drone technology to improve public safety while respecting the rights and privacy of citizens.

Photo courtesy of News 5 Cleveland.


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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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