SEATTLE (AP) – Seattle’s mayor on Thursday ordered the police department to abandon its plan to use drones after residents and privacy advocates protested.
Mayor Mike McGinn said the department will not use two small drones it obtained through a federal grant. The unmanned aerial vehicles will be returned to the vendor, he said.
“Today I spoke with Seattle Police Chief John Diaz, and we agreed that it was time to end the unmanned aerial vehicle program, so that SPD can focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the department’s priority,” the mayor said in a brief statement.
The decision comes as the debate over drones heats up across the country. Lawmakers in at least 11 states are looking at plans to restrict the use of drones over their skies amid concerns the vehicles could be exploited to spy on Americans.
The Seattle Police Department previously said it would use drones to provide an overhead view of large crime scenes, serious accidents, disasters, and search and rescue operations. It had conducted demonstrations of the drones to show the public their capabilities.
The program drew strong criticism from residents Wednesday at a meeting of the City Council, which was considering an ordinance giving police the authority to use drones.
The proposed measure would have allowed the use of drones for data collection but barred police from using them over “open-air assembly of people” or for general surveillance. The drones would have carried no weapons, but the proposal would have allowed police to use face-recognition software in them.
The police department had purchased two Draganflyer X6 vehicles, which have a width of 36 inches, length of 33.5 inches and stand just under a foot. The drones are capable of flying indoors and outdoors and carry a camera, according to the company website.
The department had not yet begun using the drones but received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
One of the program’s key adversaries was the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the drones were obtained without any public input or discussion.
“We applaud the mayor’s action,” spokesman Doug Honig said Thursday. “Drones would have given the police unprecedented abilities to engage in surveillance and intrude on the privacy of people in Seattle … and there was a never a strong case made that Seattle needed them for public safety.”
Moving forward, the ACLU would like to see the Legislature adopt “very tight restrictions” on law-enforcement drones statewide, Honig said.
Opposition to the use of drones in the U.S. has come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, including civil liberties advocates and those worried over government intrusion.
On Monday, the Charlottesville City Council in Virginia passed a resolution imposing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones within city limits. The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group behind the city’s effort, said Charlottesville is the first city in the country to limit the use of drones by police.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security drones do enter Washington airspace occasionally, patrolling the Canadian border east of the Cascade mountains. The two 10,000-pound Predator-B unmanned aircraft are based in North Dakota.
Meanwhile, CIA Director-designate John Brennan strongly defended anti-terror attacks by unmanned drones abroad Thursday under questioning at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Brennan said drone strikes are used only against targets planning to carry out attacks against the United States, never as retribution for an earlier one.
Manuel Valdes can be reached at
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- 7 common ways to get sued by your employees
- Why it might be time to upgrade your toilet
- Arizona teachers are building a better future by using technology in the classroom
- How to make summer reading fun for the whole family
- How to find relief for chronic joint pain
- Can the NBA Lottery save the Suns?
- Skip Urgent Care: 5 ailments you can treat with telemedicine
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments