SEPTEMBER 1, 2015
DRONE USE MAY BE RESTRICTED IN STATE
A Kentucky legislator has prefiled a bill for the 2016 General Assembly that would require a warrant before law enforcement could use a drone to collect evidence.
State Rep. Diane St. Onge, a Lakeside Park Republican, has proposed the legislation that provides a provision for emergency drone searches in cases such as a missing child as long as the warrant is issued within 48 hours of the search.
St. Onge said she is seeking parameters in the police and private sectors that have not been addressed in the state. She plans to file another bill in regard to drone use over private property.
So far, Kentucky is among 24 states that do not have any laws regarding drone use.
Local law enforcement agencies have yet to start employing drones as a tool against crime.
Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain said there are reasons why his department has not invested in police drones.
“The cost issue would be one thing we would look at,” Cain said. “We also understand the controversy involved
with them and that’s going to be a consideration before we would elect to utilize them.”
Cain added that he’s been part of the discussions with the National Sheriff’s Association that weighed the pros and cons of using drones.
“There are (police) agencies using them, but there are Fourth Amendment considerations in gathering evidence,” Cain said. “I can see applications for them where they can be a tremendous benefit. But with much of what we do, we have to weigh the benefits with the liabilities.”
Kentucky State Police owns a drone.
But according to Trooper Corey King, public information officer for the Henderson post, the drone is strictly used for training purposes and posting videos on the KSP’s YouTube channel.
“We have our own aircraft fleet of planes and helicopters,” King said. “We use them for marijuana eradication. But I don’t foresee us using drones locally for any reason. If we’re going to do searches, we’re going to use our helicopters. They’re equipped with the FLIR system that can show heat and infrared.”
King said it would make more sense to restrict private drone users to prevent voyeurism.
“It wouldn’t be law enforcement that would be the concern,” King said. “It would be average citizens who could have these drones and use them unethically — like taking pictures and video and posting them on social media. Whereas, law enforcement entities using it for intelligence gathering and those working a legitimate case have ethical standards.”
Similar to the sheriff’s department, Owensboro Police Department currently does not own a drone.
“We don’t have any, and we have no plans for getting any (drones) as far as I know,” said Michael Hathaway, OPD’s public information officer.
St. Onge has attempted twice previously to pass similar drone legislation but has never received a hearing.
By Don Wilkins