California Governor Vetoes Bill that Would Have Limited Drone Use by Law Enforcement

Carey Wedler (TheAntiMedia)
September 30, 2014

jerrybrownSACRAMENTO, CA – California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a bill passed in the California legislature to regulate the use of drones by law enforcement. AB 1327, which would have required a warrant for the government to conduct drone surveillance, passed in both the state Assembly and Senate and would have also mandated that agencies publicly announce their intent to buy and use drones. They would have been required to delete data of most users after a year’s time. Image credit: Neon Tommy/

Brown vetoed the legislation, arguing that:

“There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate…The bill’s exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the Fourth Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution.”

The California bill was not unlike many that have been introduced and passed throughout the country. The ACLU tracks state legislation, which began cropping up nationwide in 2013 and often requires warrants. As of 2014, only 13 states had enacted legislation, but even in 2013 (when that number was in single digits), the organization said:

“…it is actually remarkable that that many bills were enacted the first session out of the gate given that legislation often takes multiple years to marinate and gain legislator and public support before passing. And what’s more remarkable is that these initial laws are, for the most part, very good.”

In 2012, Congress passed a law requiring the FAA to write regulations allowing the expansion of domestic drones. Those eventual regulations included use by law enforcement, universities, hobbyists and private businesses. By November, 2013, over 80 law enforcement agencies had agreements with the FAA to fly drones.

The FBI has admitted to using domestic drones, as has the Department of Homeland Security. In spite of serious safety concerns, the Pentagon also intends to expand its domestic drone operations to at least 110 bases in 39 states by 2017.

Governor Brown’s decision to veto AB 1327 follows substantial outrage at the Los Angeles Police Department’s acquirement of two drones from the Seattle Police Department in May of this year. Following a Los Angeles Kings hockey game in June where members of the crowd knocked a drone out of the sky, the LAPD denied it was theirs( citing a lockdown of their two unmanned aerial vehicles at a federal facility). Nevertheless, amid protests in September, it further grounded its drones until policies for use are drafted and approved by the Police Commissioner.

The vetoed California bill’s author, Republican Jeff Gorrell, warned that the legislature will likely move to impose a moratorium on the use of drones in the state, as several other states have done. This may represent a better course of action as protesters of drone surveillance in Los Angeles argued earlier this month that even AB 1327 did not do enough.

According to KTLA, Hamid Khan of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition said: “the exceptions to obtaining a warrant in the bill were so broad that ‘you [could] fly a drone through them.’ “

This is the opposite reasoning of Governor Jerry Brown, who felt the exceptions were too restrictive against law enforcement. Still, Gorrell said:

“We’re increasingly living in a surveillance society as the government uses new technology to track and watch the activities of Americans. It’s disappointing that the governor decided to side with law enforcement in this case over the privacy interests of California.”

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