News Ticker

Did White Plains Police Use Drones To Spy On Peaceful Protesters Last Week?

13817265_10208619186791540_543485558_nWhite Plains — BW reported hundreds of Westchester residents, community leaders and local clergy members attended a peaceful march and vigil for justice the night of Thursday, July 14th in White Plains.

A website Popular Resistance reported that the White Plains Police Department utilized Drones to spy on those in attendance at the peaceful protest.

Popular Resistance is a resource and information clearinghouse website for the growing culture of resistance is utilizing nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience as a primary tactic, reports;

Nick Mottern of knowdrones.com says, “I just spoke with White Plains Assistant Chief of Police Anne Fitzsimmons who declined to acknowledge whether or not the White Plains Police have a drone much less whether the police used a drone to undertake surveillance of people at the County-wide March for Justice held in White Plains last Thursday, July 14.

“Asked if the police had used a drone at the march, she said that she would not give any information having to do with ‘tactics’.   No information will be provided, she said, because ‘we need to maintain the integrity of our ability to protect the public.’

“She said further that since there are ‘many, many cameras out there’ the question of the use of a drone is ‘a moot point’.”

It’s worth noting the meaningless and militaristic language this supposedly domestic civilian public servant uses to deny information to the public. Just label something a “tactic” and you can keep it secret, she thinks, so that the enemy doesn’t learn your tactics. But who is the enemy? And the “integrity” of serving the public requires not letting the public know what you are doing (and spying on that public)?

In the Popular Resistance article, Mr. Motten makes the distinction between using drones as suppose to regular cameras that might film people attempting to exercise their First Amendment right to assemble and speak.

“Drones are able to focus in on individuals and groups and to follow them for extended periods; drones can be fitted with pepper spray, tear gas and other anti-personnel weapons,” Mottern says. Yes, and they can be used to intimidate, to target political enemies, to restrict people’s rights. And if they really were no different from other means of surveillance, what sort of excuse would that be? Nobody excuses police killings on the grounds that there are lots of other killings anyway.

The ACLU seems to agree with Mr. Motten’s point of view. In a post of their website titled Domestic Drones, the organization that has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, states;

U.S. law enforcement is greatly expanding its use of surveillance drones, and private actors are also seeking to use the technology for personal and commercial use.

Drones have many beneficial uses, including in search-and-rescue missions, scientific research, mapping, and more. But deployed without proper regulation, drones equipped with facial recognition software, infrared technology, and speakers capable of monitoring personal conversations would cause unprecedented invasions of our privacy rights. Interconnected drones could enable mass tracking of vehi­cles and people in wide areas. Tiny drones could go completely unnoticed while peering into the window of a home or place of worship.

Westchester Coallition for Police Reform Co-Founder Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., confirms the sighting of what appeared to be drones flying overhead during the peaceful July 14th protest, march and vigil.

“During the march, rally and protest I did observe what appeared to be a drone flying overhead,” Kenneth Chamberlain Jr tells BW. “The use of unmanned aircraft is not new and raises concerns around the issue of privacy. The question is whether or not the Fourth Amendment, which provides the ‘right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,’ applies to the use of these aircraft. If you read case law around this such as in California v. Ciraolo where police officers identified marijuana plants in a backyard from a plane at an altitude of 1000 feet or Florida v. Riley, where marijuana plants were overserved from helicopter at 400 feet, we see that these judges felt it did not violate the Fourth Amendment.”

While many agree it is a invaluable tool in fighting crime and the unmanned aircraft, cuts down the cost of using helicopters, we are entering new territory and the lines are severely blurred on where these agencies are protecting us or violating our rights. GovTech.com reports that drones may in fact be the new face of law enforcement across the board;

Nationwide, 609 government agencies — including those involved in law enforcement, firefighting, border patrol, military training, disaster relief, and search and rescue — received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration last year to use unmanned aircraft systems, compared with 423 in 2013, and 146 in 2009.

Police officials say the devices can keep officers out of dangerous situations and cover more ground quickly — say, in the case of a missing child or an armed suspect on the run, especially in rural areas.

Chamberlain tends to agree but still offers caution in it’s usuage;

“I do believe that these drones could be useful in a hostage situation and possibly search and rescue missions,” Chamberlain shares with BW, “but if it is being used to secretly monitor conversations or as this article implies to spy on the citizens of White Plains then that is an invasion of privacy rights. So for Chief Fitzsimmons to say that the question of the use of a drone is “moot point” an irrelevant question, a matter of no importance is wrong. I do not know if there is any legislation around this issue but there definitely should be policy in place on how and when it is used and oversight to prevent misuse.”

On their website, The Federal Aviation Administration post;

There is evidence of a considerable increase in the unauthorized use of small, inexpensive Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by individuals and organizations, including companies. While the FAA retains the responsibility for enforcing Federal Aviation Regulations, including those applicable to the use of UAS, the agency also recognizes that state and local Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) are often in the best position to deter, detect, immediately investigate, and, as appropriate, pursue enforcement actions to stop unauthorized or unsafe UAS operations. The agency’s Law Enforcement Guidance for Suspected Unauthorized UAS Operations (PDF) is intended to support the partnership between the FAA and LEAs in addressing these activities.

What the FAA website does not cover in the information, if it is local law enforcement agencies that will investigate the illegal use of drones, who do We The People turn to when its the local law enforcement agencies and the government violating the rights of the people, by spying on us? REAL TALK!!!

BW will continue to cover the use of drones from practical and legal perspectives, especially in the County of Westchester, New York. Follow our continuing coverage on the FAA’s new guidelines for individual drone registration and regulations.

Comments

About AJ Woodson (2262 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
%d bloggers like this: