Do armed drones have a future in policing? Some lawmakers think so but others believe it’s just plain “creepy.”
As of yet, no state in the country allows the police department to use lethal drones but all this will soon change if Connecticut House Bill 7260 passes.
The piece of legislature would ban the use of weaponized drones except by the police in “serious events.” Law enforcement officers will receive training on how to use the drones and new rules will be developed for its use by the Police Office Standards and Training Council.
Some lawmakers believe lethally armed drones could be a necessity in cases where lives are at stake.
“Obviously this is for very limited circumstances,” Republican state Sen. John Kissel, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee that approved the bill and sent it to the House, said. “We can certainly envision some incident on some campus or someplace where someone is a rogue shooter or someone was kidnapped and you try to blow out a tire.”
He also claims that civilians have been able to arm drones and police should be able to match that ability.
"We have to be able to fight fire with fire," Kissel said. "The use of weaponized drones isn't going to go away because we don't like it, so we have to do something now."
The Republican said these gadgets can be used to dismantle bombs in hard-to-reach areas, shooting down another armed drone or shooting a tire in a high speed car chase.
However, critics understandably believe the use of armed drones would make citizens feel like the “enemy” — especially those belonging to belonging to communities of color and who face racism and excess force from police.
“It will make [citizens] feel like the enemy,” David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, told NBC News. “The basic idea of a gun or Taser on a drone is, simply put, a chilling sight.”
“We would be setting a dangerous precedent,” he added. “It is really concerning and outrageous that that's being considered in our state legislature. Lethal force raises this to a level of real heightened concern.”
A similar issue made headlines last summer when Dallas police strapped a pound of C4 explosives to a remote controlled robot to kill a sniper who had shot nine police officers during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. The incident was believed to be the first time a suspect was killed this way and the event raised a debate on how ethical is it to kill with such a system.
"Where people will have problems and where agencies need to be cautious is weaponized drones that use force in situations where we're not used to that," Seth Stoughton, an assistant law professor at the University of South Carolina and former police officer, said.
"Use of weaponized drones reinforces the idea of soldiers engaged in a war," he added. "Perceptions matter a lot to people."
“I think that police are taught one thing,” said Democratic Bridgeport Sen. Edwin Gomes. “You put a weapon in their hand, they shoot center mass, they shoot to kill. If it's going to be used, you're going to use it to kill somebody.”
“There's a disconnect with a person sitting in a trailer commanding a drone that can hurt or kill,” North Dakota state Rep. Rick Becker, who led the push to ban drones with lethal weapons in his state, told NBC News. “That's the dangerous, creepy thing about it.”
At least 347 police and fire departments in 43 states are using drones for surveillance, crime photography and search and rescue operations.
However, no state uses weaponized drones currently except North Dakota, which limits the use to non-lethal weapons including stun guns, tear gas and rubber bullets.