Local Residents and Civil Rights Organizations Resist Sheriff’s Attempts to Deploy Drones Over Alameda County
Press conference to highlight concerns including invasion of privacy, militarization of police forces, restriction of free speech and political expression
At a press conference to be held on the steps of Oakland City Hall on Thursday, October 18, at 11:00 a.m., Alameda County residents and legal advocacy organizations will announce their efforts to resist the Sheriff’s announced plans to deploy aerial surveillance “drones” for undisclosed law enforcement purposes.
“Community members intend to pursue city and county legislation to prohibit the use of drones to spy on Alameda County residents,” stated Mary Madden, an Oakland resident. “The Sheriff’s idea is a threat to our privacy, and a deterrent to those of us who participate in community and political activities.”
The ACLU of Northern California has sent County Sheriff Ahern a public records request, asking for basic information about why drones are needed, how much they would cost to acquire, operate and maintain, and how the drones would be used. “Drones should not be used for indiscriminate mass surveillance,” said Linda Lye, staff attorney with the ACLU-NC. “Transparency is key. Right now, we don’t know what, if any, safeguards the Sheriff intends to follow before deploying unmanned surveillance aircraft into our skies.”
Critical Resistance, a national organization that has helped organize against the use of gang injunctions in Oakland, has also condemned Sheriff Ahern’s plans for drones. “The idea of using military equipment in policing is one more step in the militarization of Bay Area police activities,” stated Rachel Herzing, of Critical Resistance. “Extending police powers to monitor and surveil local residents within communities that already have a high level of distrust of the police can only generate more tension and resentment toward police forces, while further criminalizing our families and neighbors.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation originally sued the FAA under the Freedom of Information Act to get information on all public and private entities that have applied for drone authorizations and has since filed many public records requests to local law enforcement agencies to find out more about drone use. “Drones will give law enforcement an unprecedented ability to spy on Americans, and the law has not kept up with the technology,” said Trevor Timm, activist for EFF. “Before any law enforcement agency operates drones in American skies, we need binding privacy safeguards and transparency requirements that explain and control their use. Police should need a warrant to use drones for surveillance on any individual, and agencies need clear data use and retention standards that explain how and for what purpose surveillance footage and data are being used, with whom its being shared, and when it will be deleted.”