ACLU-CT Statement Regarding H.B. 7260, An Act Concerning the Use and Regulation of Drones

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2017

CONTACT:
Meghan Smith, ACLU of Connecticut, 860-992-7645, msmith@acluct.org

On March 29, the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly amended H.B. 7260, a bill concerning the use and regulation of drones. The following is a reaction from David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT):

“In its original form, H.B. 7260 protected people’s rights, but this amended version would undermine them. This was originally a good bill to protect communities from unwarranted police drone surveillance and prevent police from weaponizing drones. The ACLU of Connecticut supports protecting people from unwarranted drone surveillance, but opposes the amendment to allow police to equip drones with lethal and “less-lethal” weapons.

This amendment to allow police to attach weapons to drones is dangerous and unnecessary. There is no good reason to allow police to weaponize drones, and the potential for abuse, misuse, and accidental harm is far too great. Indeed, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Connecticut’s own Program Review and Investigations Committee have strongly discouraged allowing police to weaponize drones. In Connecticut, we have seen police misuse some of the weapons that they already have. Statewide police Taser data, for instance, shows that police in Connecticut disproportionately use Tasers against minorities and people with mental health issues, and that the vast majority of people targeted by police Tasers in our state are unarmed. Allowing police to attach Tasers and other weapons to drones would only perpetuate these disparities and compound existing problems with police use of force in our state.

For the past two years, Connecticut’s House and Senate have each passed drone regulation bills requiring police to obtain a warrant before using drones for surveillance, and prohibiting police from weaponizing drones. We strongly urge the legislature to eliminate this outrageous amendment and return the bill to its original form, which included a prohibition on police drone weaponization.”

For the full text of the amended and original versions of H.B. 7260: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2017&bill_num=7260

For the ACLU of Connecticut’s testimony supporting the original version of H.B. 7260, which banned police from weaponizing drones and included privacy protections from police drone surveillance: http://www.acluct.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ACLU-Connecticut_2017-Testimony-Supporting-HB-7260-Drone-Privacy-Protection-and-Police-Drone-Weaponization-Ban.pdf