OAKLAND (CBS SF) – The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office brought a proposal to the county Board of Supervisors Public Protection Committee on Thursday to purchase a small unmanned aircraft system, but amid privacy concerns from civil rights groups the committee made no decision on whether the program would move forward.
The unmanned aircraft, commonly called a drone, would have a number of proposed missions to improve public safety in Alameda County, sheriff’s Capt. Tom Madigan said.
Some of the missions include crime scene preservation and documentation, support in explosive ordinance disposal, hazardous materials spills, search and rescue missions and public safety and life preservation, Madigan said.
In addition, fire authorities would be able to request response to use the drones to find hot spots, Madigan said.
Sheriff Gregory Ahern insists that the device is not a drone, which gives the impression of a weapon-baring military drone, but a system to assist in an on-mission circumstance only.
“There is no intention to add weapons to the system,” Ahern said.
The system has been in the works for more than two and a half years, Ahern said Thursday at the hearing.
The sheriff’s office has been in direct communication with the program’s opposition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, to hash out any concerns, he said.
ACLU spokesman Will Matthews expressed privacy as the organization’s top concern. “Before a drone is deployed, we need to put into place strict privacy safeguards to ensure drones won’t be used for warrantless mass surveillance,” Matthews said.