Sunday, February 2, 2014
THE DRONE MYSTERY
For Law Enforcement, drones , and their use, pose a certain set of questions about their safe operation. Crime scene tape is usually sufficient to keep the media at bay while evidence is being collected. In the case of a drone, sensitive video and evidence can be obtained from a drone hovering overhead, with virtually unrestricted access to a crime scene.
Yesterday the drone was hovering over the scene of a fatal accident on Main Street. Although HPD did what they could to cover the dead body of the crash victim still in the car, from the street level view, I would imagine that the aerial view might possibly reveal a much more different sight. Does any family want to see a video showing up on "you tube" of their maimed relative lying dead in the vehicle?
I strongly believe in the public's and the media's right to know. I think HPD has shown over the last year or two that they are extremely open and transparent and share as much information as possible. Victim and suspect information as well as photographs of the individuals and evidence are normally e-mailed to the media within hours after an incident.
A drone shooting aerial video could possibly compromise investigations by exposing all evidence on the ground that might be crucial to the investigation. It also is a large officer safety issue. In this day and age of "instant media" I don't think a lot of television stations consider what they are putting out in the effort to be the first to report "breaking news. Many times the instant video is exposing strategic locations of police officers.
The images of Emergency Response Teams or 'SWAT" officers makes for great images with officers armed with assault rifles and military garb jumping out of armored vehicles. The problem is that in most cases, the same individuals that they are called to apprehend also have television sets and could also be watching the live shots of those same officers arriving on scene, courtesy of your local network station.
This happened a few years ago after a couple HPD officers were shot on Zion Street during a drug raid. At that time a local station had a helicopter. As the scene unfolded, the chopper was hovering overhead transmitting live video of every officers location around the perimeter of the building. HPD was able to quickly get the air space over the scene closed by the FAA and the chopper was forced to shut down its video and exit the area.
A drone could potentially do the same thing. Apparently the drone's camera has the capacity to transmit video back to a smart phone or receiver and then be sent out to anyone the operator decided The FAA still has control over the use of drones and the airspace the drone operates in. The use of a drone is not just something any hobbyist can do unrestricted , there are numerous federal regulations governing their use with apparently stiff penalties for reported violations
The mystery use of the drone that has been concerning HPD was solved yesterday. The operator was located and identified as a cameraman for a local television station and from what sources told me, he was transmitting the live video back to his station. I would imagine this situation is not over yet as new technology brings new challenges to law enforcement.