Anti-drone bill pushed by local lawmaker

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Drones have become a popular tool for the military to fire rockets at suspected terrorists in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. But a local state lawmaker is trying to stop unmanned planes from being used by local police.

His concern is, privacy.

Republican State Sen. Joe Negron of Palm City is pushing the bill that would ban drones from being used by police to do surveillance, help on high-speed chases or gather evidence.

He calls it the Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act, and it has already won a crucial vote in committee.
 
The team at RC Revolution on Okeechobee Boulevard - who have built increasingly sophisticated drones over the last few years - say privacy concerns are unavoidable.

"You can fly over anyone's house, you could lock onto a target, and follow a person," said engineer Alan Hernandez.

Drones are attractive for law enforcement because they're much cheaper than putting a helicopter in the air.

They're much quieter.  And since there's no pilot, no lives have to be put at risk during a high speed chase.

"Because criminals are becoming more high tech, law enforcement feels compelled to try to keep pace," said Brad Robinson, the head of a private security firm called The Millennium Group.

Sen. Negron's bill would allow for exceptions when police get a search warrant, when reasonable suspicion indicates a life is in imminent danger, or when it could help prevent a terrorist attack.

Security consultant and former CIA agent Brad Robinson says a ban would still be frustrating for local cops.

"The public wants it both ways. They don't want taxes to go up to pay for more police officers. But when law enforcement comes up with a method to try to reduce the costs, then often it is met with some other kind of opposition," said Robinson.

The bill still has several more committees to get through before it will see a floor vote.

Negron did not respond to our requests for comment, but he did tell a newspaper in Gainesville that "Drones are fine to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they shouldn't be hovering in the sky, monitoring Floridians."

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