Residents Push Back Against Local Drone Use


Drone programs on the local level are coming under fire as law enforcement officials use the unmanned aircraft as a tool to fight crime.

Now there's a push several cities to block the use of domestic drones. Residents are calling them an uncomfortable invasion of privacy.

This week, Charlottesville, Va., became the first city in the country to ban the use of police spy drones. A Virginia state senate committee has also backed a two-year ban on drones by police and government agencies.

But law enforcement groups are fighting back.

Appomattox County Sheriff Barry Letterman said if his department had drones in 2010 they may have caught gunman Christopher Speight before he killed eight people.

"Definitely after the helicopter was shot down we could have sent that up and possibly pin-pointed where this individual was that we were looking for, versus sending another helicopter up taking a chance of somebody being shot down," Letterman said.

But many residents say the camera carrying police drones are unwelcome.

"No I don't like that at all," James Almond, Appomattox County Resident, said. "It feels like they're invading your privacy."

As it stands now the Virginia legislation allows law enforcement to use a drone in emergency situations, like searching for missing children or elderly.

But Letterman said by the time a search warrant is filed, it could be too late.

"We're not in the business of invading peoples privacy, by no means. But I think in emergency situations we need to use whatever we have a available," he said.

Eleven other states are considering restricting the use of drones.

Meanwhile, Congress is looking for a way to limit use of deadly drone strikes. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will likely hold hearings on the country's policy.

The issue has become a hot topic in recent days, especially after a newly disclosed document exposes how much lethal power the administration can use against terrorists, even if they're American citizens.

The document from the Justice Department says American citizens tied to al Qaeda can be killed if, "an informed, high-level official" believes the target poses an "imminent threat."

The document goes on to say the government is not required to have clear evidence. Now the administration is under fire over the memo.

"The president understands the gravity of these issues. That is why he is committed to taking very seriously both his responsibilities in this," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Carney added that targeted strikes are legal, ethical, wise and necessary to prevent future attacks on the United States. 

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