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Atherton police among the first in Bay Area to start using a drone

Original post made on Jul 21, 2023

Atherton is one of the first Bay Area cities to add a drone to its police force, signing a contract to use the device for everything from burglaries and traffic accidents to active shooter situations and natural disasters.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 21, 2023, 9:40 AM

Comments (3)

Posted by TR
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2023 at 12:29 pm

TR is a registered user.

So, let me get this straight. The City of Atherton which created a local ordinance years ago prohibiting drone use in the city (even though that is not legal according to the FAA) is going to deploy a drone operated by a Texas company. And the operators are not supposed to record anything that might be a private space. How is that going to work? Most of the city is private land and it's unlikely that the recorded field of view will avoid it while traversing streets.

I'm not actually opposed to the idea. In fact drones are a reasonable tool if used correctly. But here are the issues:

1) APD has no drone operators. So this means the drones are being operated remotely. Who is responsible if the connection is lost? Under what jurisdiction is the operator? CA or TX? Privacy laws are quite different between the two.

2) The focus on the images captured should not be what is shown. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy when outdoors. Even on private property behind a fence, the expectation should be limited as planes and helicopters can and do fly over all the time (not to mention satellites) So the goal of avoiding this capture is pointless. Instead, focus on use and retention policies. In my opinion there should be NO retention of any of the video past a short deadline (no more than a month) unless the footage has been recorded as part of evidence for a criminal case or a publicly documented retention request (say someone who feels they were mistreated in the event and wants to review) ALL the rest should be purged. Not shared with other agencies. Not kept just in case. We must demand that our government data collectors stop keeping and sharing it

3) Repeal the anti drone ordinance. It was always pointless and stupid. But now it is cynical that private citizens are banned but the police can do it anyway.

Posted by NickL
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 27, 2023 at 1:47 am

NickL is a registered user.

As TR wrote, this is a rather two-faced solution. Restriction of civilians, but additional powers of the police, what's next? As I read about it in an article here, it won't lead to anything good.

Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 27, 2023 at 10:35 am

Thoughtful is a registered user.

The Atherton PD is experimenting with drones (with privacy implications for residents) and wellness counselors, and has lost track of the bread and butter of why Atherton has decided to have its own police department.

By the chief's admission, they won't pursue criminals who commit crimes here (*).

We have a $50M town center to house them when they should be on the streets patrolling the neighborhoods.

The council needs to set clear expectations for what we should be receiving for these very expensive police services. It is by far the largest part of our budget.

The drones won't change anything. But changing the attitude of how we manage this department and our expectations will.

(*) To be accurate, the chief has said he won't authorize either vehicular or foot pursuits of non-violent criminals because of the risk to pedestrian and officer (!) safety, but 100% or thereabouts of the crime in Atherton is non-violent.

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