A new bill that’s making its rounds through Connecticut state legislation has stirred up a lot of controversy. If passed, the law would give police departments throughout the state the ability to possess and deploy drones equipped with lethal weapons. The rules and circumstances under which weaponized drones haven’t been established, but would be determined by the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council. There would also be mandatory training for any police officers seeking the ability to operate these drones.
The bill’s primary intention was to ban the use of weaponized drones to all state residents except for police officers. If passed, the new law would make Connecticut the first state in the country to authorize their police to use drones equipped with lethal weaponry, but only the second state whose police departments are allowed to equip drones with weapons. North Dakota previously passed a law allowing their police departments to use drones equipped with weapons, as long as they’re non-lethal.
Almost immediately, the state’s civil liberties entities raised concerns over this bill, citing the possibilities of weaponized drones being misused and as a tool for abuse on citizens.
“We’ve seen some police in Connecticut use disproportionate force against people of minorities, and we think that drones would exacerbate this problem,” says David McGuire, head of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Connecticut. “We’ve been working hard to try and reestablish trust in law enforcement, and this bill sends the wrong message.”
Supporters of the bill have argued that deployment and usage of drones equipped with lethal weaponry would only be used as a last resort, and in select situations. These devices obviously wouldn’t be deployed during routine calls, but better suited for scenarios like defusing bombs, terroristic situations, and accessing areas or suspects that might be too dangerous for humans.
“Obviously this is for very limited circumstances,” says Connecticut State Senator John Kissel. “We can certainly envision some incident on some campus or someplace where someone is a rogue shooter or someone was kidnapped and you try to blow out a tire.”
According to the ACLU, three police departments in Connecticut (Hartford, Plainfield, Woodbury) have already begun using drones for non-offensive purposes. The bill does contain some bipartisan regulations on how and when a drone can be used, like requiring police to obtain a warrant before usage (with the exception of emergency circumstances), or permission is granted by the person who is the subject of the drone. The new law would also require annual reports from police departments on why, and how often drones are used, along with new penalties for misusing these crafts.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)