The New York Police Department announced today that it has acquired 14 drones and plans to utilize them in policing efforts across New York City, in a move that has garnered backlash from civil advocacy groups that are concerned about the department’s motives.
In the announcement, the NYPD said that there are 29 officers who are trained to use the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The drones are anticipated to be used to police large events in the city, like concerts, and in hostage situations and crime scene investigations. The department said today that it doesn’t plan to use the new technology to enforce traffic laws or surveil citizens.
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a statement on Tuesday, “As the largest municipal police department in the United States, the NYPD must always be willing to leverage the benefits of new and always-improving technology.”
Despite the statements from the NYPD suggesting that the devices won’t be used maliciously, local groups are voicing concern that they could be used in surveillance efforts. Drones have been implemented in other police departments across the country, and they have been met with concern from local advocacy groups and citizens. Groups like the New York Civil Liberties Union are criticizing the NYPD’s new drone policy, saying that it doesn’t place any “meaningful restrictions” on the use of the drones, and it allows for the department to create a permanent archive of all of the obtained footage.
“While we appreciate the NYPD’s willingness to meet with us before it announced this program,” the NYCLU said in a statement, “we believe the new policy falls far short of what is needed to balance the department’s legitimate law-enforcement needs against the privacy interests of New Yorkers.”