Connecticut Panel Approves Armed Drones for Law Enforcement



Staff Reporter

House Bill 7260 (HB-7260), which would outlaw the use of armed drones from the general public, was recently passed by the Connecticut House Judiciary Committee.

However, the bill would allow for law enforcement agencies to equip their drones with guns, tear-gas canisters, and other devices to be used when necessary.

“The bill was created not as a measure of giving the police more power,” said Criminal Justice professor Anthony Papa. “The bill was created to prevent citizens from attaching any type of weapons to drones.”

Papa said that the bill would require the Police Officer Standards and Training Council to decide in what circumstances law enforcement would be allowed to use weaponized drones.

Before using these drones, police would be required to acquire a warrant, unless given specific permission in emergency situations.

“The police will always be limited in their use of deadly force by the law,” said Dr. James McCabe, Associate Professor and Chair for the Criminal Justice Department. “The use of this force does not change, from a legal standpoint, whether it is used by a police officer discharging a firearm that he or she is holding, or by pressing a button to have the drone discharge a firearm. The legal requirements
for the officer to be justified in the use of this force will
not change.”

However, some people think that these drones should only be used as a last resort.

“When someone’s life is in danger and no other method can prevent a serious bodily injury or death,” said Papa. “Specifically, it should be used where it’s too dangerous to send law enforcement in, or if the emergency is in an area where law enforcement may have difficulty approaching.”

McCabe said that local police have been using remote deadly force, in specific situations, for some time.

“Robots armed with firearms and small explosive devices used to detonate bombs are used by the police in all sorts of situations,” said McCabe. “These robots engage threats, are equipped with cameras and two-way communications, and usually help negotiate peaceful ends to armed conflicts without putting officers, victims, and suspects in harms way.”

Papa used the example of a school shooter, saying that drones could be used to canvass the scene and keep law enforcement safe.

Military personnel use drones in a similar way and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut reports that drones are already in use by the Hartford, Plainfield, and Woodbury police departments, though their drones are not necessarily armed.

The National Conference of State Legislatures said that Maine and Virginia are the only two states which have outlawed the use of weapon drones by police and civilians.

North Dakota is the only state that permits the police to use these drones.

However, North Dakota police officers are restricted to less lethal weapons such as stun guns, rubber bullets and tear gas.

“I think that police are taught one thing, you put a weapon in their hand, they shoot center mass, they shoot to kill,” said Democratic Bridgeport Sen. Edwin Gomes to the Associated Press. “If it’s going to be used, you’re going to use it to kill somebody.”

New technological developments may also affect how law enforcement departments operate in the future.

“Technology is constantly evolving and updating,” said Papa. “Law enforcement needs to evolve with technology. Proper policing needs to be proactive, not reactive.”

The House Judiciary committee on March 29 said the HB-7260 should be moved to the House floor after a 34 to 7 vote. The bill has yet to reach the House floor for debate.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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