In 5-2 vote, Spokane city council passes police use of drones

Spokane police will soon be armed with a new tool in the air. In a 5-2 vote last night, the city council passed a proposal for the Spokane Police Department to start using drones.

The council delayed the vote two weeks ago, when several council members felt the proposal was too vague. Since then, they’ve worked with police and legal experts to clarify what exactly the drones would be used for and establish some limitations.

The updated ordinance contains a list of specific activities that are permitted for drone use. Those include crime scene investigations, active shooter situations, searches for missing people, locating reported homeless camp sites, and SWAT situations.

Council members also made it clear that police drone use must respect the Fourth Amendment and cannot go onto private property without a warrant.

Still, council members Mike Fagan and Kate Burke opposed the measure. Fagan said he wanted to gather more public input before supporting the idea.

Councilwoman Burke cited civil liberty concerns. “As much as we work with our police department and it’s great to have partners, we don’t work for them. We work for the people,” Burke said Monday. “I fear this resolution in its current form does not go far enough to provide enough clarity around our civil liberties.”
Spokane Police will now join Washington State Patrol and the Spokane Fire Department, among other agencies, in using drones for their investigations.

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