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Cops out? Nebraska considers banning police from using drones

By   /   February 14, 2013  /   11 Comments

GROUNDED: Nebraska lawmakers are looking at banning police from using drones.

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN – A bill that would ban cops from using drones got a warm welcome Thursday from a legislative committee in Nebraska.

Nebraska is among 11 states considering limiting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, as they move from battlefields to backyards.

In Nebraska, Sen. Paul Schumacher, a former county attorney, introduced a bill that would prohibit law enforcement from using drones. As America’s wars in the Middle East wind down, he’s concerned “Madison Avenue firms” will be lobbying police departments to buy the drones.

And while Schumacher’s bill flat out bans the use of drones by law enforcement, he’s open to making exceptions for things such as search-and-rescue missions and other uses that don’t infringe on people’s privacy.

“The government does not need to have its nose in everybody’s backyard or above everybody’s farm,” he told the Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The bill got enthusiastic support from a key ally, Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers — whose been known to make or break a bill in the Legislature in his 38-year history as a senator.

“Bless you my son,” he said to Schumacher after he explained his bill. “I’m opposed to mechanical so-called justice.”

Chambers — no fan of law enforcement — talked about how drones could hover near windows and spy on cars without probable cause.

Sen. Ernie Chambers

“They want to be able to intrude on the personal lives of everyone,” he said of police.

Chambers then went on a diatribe about how police terrorize people and abuse their power in his north Omaha neighborhood.

“If it sounds like I don’t trust the police, I don’t, and they know it. You don’t see the side of police we see,” he said. “They’re not our friends, they don’t protect and serve. They are our enemies based on the way they treat us.”

He said he’d like to see a penalty added to the bill — such as loss of certification as a law enforcement officer — for violations.

“It’s not enough to tell them, ‘Don’t do it,’” Chambers said.

Amy Miller, legal director for ACLU Nebraska, noted drones have already been used by the EPA to monitor cattle feed lots in Nebraska, and tiny robotic Dragonfly drones can be purchased for $119. They can be operated by an iPad or smart phone and weigh as much as a AA battery, she said.

“Technology has pushed us to a new frontier,” she said. “But private protections haven’t kept up.”

Although private citizens can also buy drones, Miller said the bigger concern is the “damage the government could do” with them.

Miller noted that opposition to police using drones is a nonpartisan issue, with the conservative Rutherford Institute opposing their use.

Some senators were surprised to learn about drones — such as Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, who went online and found he could have bought a drone in the time it took for the committee to hear testimony on the bill.

“If we don’t do this and this cat gets out of the bag, he’s awful hard to catch and get back in,” Schumacher said.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.

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Deena Winter has been a journalist for over 20 years, writing stories for the Northwood Gleaner, Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press, Denver Post and Lincoln Journal Star before joining Watchdog.

  • resistwemuch

    The primary abuser of people in North Omaha are some of the “citizens” who live in North Omaha. I believe that all police should be removed from North Omaha. The only time the police should be able to respond to any call for assistance in that area is after the incident in question is reviewed by Mr. Chambers and then upon his approval he can direct the number of officers to respond, what if any action they can take, and how long they can remain in the area. Of course, Mr. Chambers would be the Incident Commander Designate and he would be responsible for all applications of strategy and tactices to be utillized during any of the incidents he allows police officers to respond to.The only firearms allowed at an incident would be those of the assailant(s). Any suggestions to fill out this proposal are welcome.

  • Smith

    Ernie Chambers is already crazy and you now want to give him power, God save the people in North Omaha, they are weighted down with Ernie Chambers insane representation, isn’t that enough abuse.

  • resistwemuch

    Smith: Please look up the meaning of sarcasm.

  • Jazzee

    I can see if drones were needed for finding missing people but just to hang around in the sky 24/7 seriously? big gov has enough information I am tired of them sticking their big noses where they don’t belong….only in emergencies or missing people maybe use them other than that forget it
    ps not one of those cops would want this ‘babysitting’ done to them and they know it………………..this is still the USA right?
    everything is used either for the ‘children’ or ‘safety’ the same line of garbage is old and tired –stop duping the public all the time with this stuff

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    Sarcasm is a form of humor understood and appreciated only by those of higher than average intelligence. Enough said.

  • ToucheTurtle

    Perhaps you should define “emergency” because in the present administration the world “emergency” is a code word for CRISIS!!! Rohm Emanuel said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” and we should have all taken notice because that is the one constant used to direct our federal gov’t these days!!!

  • LukeinNE

    I’ll be damned, I agree with Chambers on something. Yes, there should be an exception for search and rescue, and maybe one for tracking down fugitives on foot in remote areas, but general purpose use for the police is insane.

  • resistwemuch

    TGIF and time for a litttle siliness. Al Gore this week stated “it turns out plants need sunlight.” Way to go Al and to believe that he came within 600 votes of being president. It is also reported that Olympic wrestling is going to be replaced by “Knockout Games.” And finally I relent and now support Charles Hagel for defense secretary as I must take into consideration that, according the BHO, Charles received “2 purple stars” as a result of his Vietnam service. Way to go Preezy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.smith.73157 Susan Smith

    I’m not surprised that Ernie Chambers supports this bill given his history of being anti-police. He seems to be against any policy, procedure or sentencing that could actually catch and punish criminals. Even though I live in North Omaha I support this bill because we can not afford to compromise any more rights to the Government not even in the name of safety.

  • JoeSixPack56

    OMG, the Rapture must be here!! Or hell froze over. I agree with SS that government should not have more power. I don’t understand her statement “Even thought I live in North Omaha. . .” There is just as much crime in other parts of town, but because the drug dealers and users in other parts of town are White, the police leave them alone.

  • Jazzee

    I cannot stand Rahm and never agreed with his comment he is an arrogant jerk…………..emergency like a flood or tornado not just flying around to record/spy on all of us….sorry I didn’t make myself clear …