A pair of aerial drones obtained by the Los Angeles Police Department could be used during "tactical events" such as manhunts and standoffs, Police Chief Charlie Beck said today, adding that he wants proof of their usefulness before deploying them.
"All of you have watched standoffs, perimeters, suspects hiding -- we're interested in those applications," Beck said during a news conference at LAPD headquarters.
The department plans to work closely with the American Civil Liberties Union to ensure the drones would not infringe on individual privacy rights, Beck said.
"I will not sacrifice public trust for a piece of police equipment," he said.
The department received the Draganflyer X6 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles last week -- at no cost to the city -- from the Seattle Police Department, which purchased them using federal grants.
Beck defended the LAPD taking the drones, saying such devices are already "in the hands of private citizens," businesses and sports teams.
"When retailers start talking about using them to deliver packages, we would be silly not to at least have a discussion of whether we want to use them in law enforcement," Beck said.
Online retailer Amazon.com recently announced it is flight-testing drones to possibly use them for deliveries.
"We would be foolish not to look at these systems and to see if in fact they can make a positive impact on public safety without eroding public trust," he said.
Beck said he is "in absolutely no hurry whatsoever to deploy these instruments," which will first undergo a "vetting process" before they would be used, Beck said.
The drones are being kept at an undisclosed federal law enforcement facility "pending review by the LAPD and the Board of Police Commissioners, as well as the public," according to the LAPD.
A certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration must be obtained by the department before the aircraft can be used, and that application process is in the very preliminary stages, police said last week.
--City News Service