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National News

February 8, 2013

Seattle mayor scraps controversial drone program



Police said the cameras, which could be operational by March 31, will provide them with a sweeping view of the port facilities, Elliott Bay and the shoreline.

“We should also assess the cameras at Alki,” Burgess said. “Unfortunately, there has not been the strong, decisive leadership from the mayor on public safety so these things just occur without the kind of oversight and policy discussions we should be having.”

McGinn’s mention of “community building” comes amid police community-outreach efforts following a Department of Justice investigation that found evidence of biased policing and routine use of unconstitutional force. That finding led to an agreement calling for mandated reforms within the department.

The debate in Seattle over drones echoes one taking place across the nation as law-enforcement agencies seek to utilize drone technology. Earlier this week, Charlottesville, Va., ordered a two-year moratorium on the citywide use of unmanned aircraft. It was the first city in the nation to do so, supporters say.

Honig, the ACLU spokesman, said the organization would like to seelegislation placing restrictions on the acquisition and use of drones by all Washington state law-enforcement agencies. He also said the acquisition of such technology should be driven by policies and decisions made with public input, not simply by the availability of federal funds.

When King County Sheriff John Urquhart took office last year, he said he returned his department’s drone to Seattle police.

“I came in and said, 'We’re not going to fly that.’ We hadn’t done our homework, and I don’t think the time is right,” he said Thursday. “What’s happening to Seattle is exactly what I hoped to avoid.”

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