Phil Matier: Berkeley Considers ‘No Drone Zone’ Proposal

OAKLAND (KCBS) – The City of Berkeley was on the brink of banning the small, unmanned aircraft commonly known as drones from hovering overhead.

At its meeting Tuesday, the City Council planned to consider a proposal by Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission to forbid the purchase or use of drones – or any similar unmanned aircraft system – by any law enforcement or other formally recognized agency.

From a practical standpoint, the proposal and vote were nothing more than a symbolic gesture; the Berkeley Police Department has gone on the record as saying there were no plans – immediate or otherwise – to add a drone to its crime-fighting arsenal. The Federal Aviation Administration has also pointed out that the City of Berkeley does not have jurisdiction over the airspace.

The Commission, for its part, pushed its proposal after it was revealed that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department was considering using roughly $31,000 in grant funding to purchase a surveillance drone. However, after coming under fire from privacy advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the idea was tabled two weeks ago.

Nonetheless, the No Drone Zone proposal remained on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council Meeting, which was to take place beginning at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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