Lawmakers Debate Weaponized Drones for Connecticut Police
Connecticut legislators are debating a bill that would allow police to use armed drones in some crisis situations.
HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut’s top police officers want to loosen restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles so that authorities are allowed to use armed drones in emergency situations.
At a hearing on Tuesday (March 1) during which officials debated a bill before the Connecticut General Assembly concerning the use of weaponized drones, Farmington Police Chief Paul Melanson said that an exception should be carved out for law enforcement, the Washington Times reported.
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As written, the bill would make it illegal to use a drone to control a deadly weapon, explosive or incendiary device, and also limit the use of drones by law enforcement and other state agencies. But while testifying at Tuesday’s hearing on behalf of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, Chief Melanson said police should be given an exception so that authorities are able to adequately respond to future scenarios in which armed robots could be of assistance.
“We’ve had a report that somebody’s going to fly a drone into an airplane, into an engine, or it’s a weaponized drone,” Chief Melanson said, a local Fox News affiliate reported. “We’re concerned and we don’t have those answers yet.”
In the event that authorities respond to a high-risk situation, such as where a suspect has been barricaded, Chief Melanson said that police “may use a robot in order to keep the public or officer safe.”
As for the reason, it goes back to a Clinton teenager experimenting with weaponized drones last year. In 2015, a teenager in Clinton, Conn., named Austin Haughwout posted videos on the internet showing how he weaponized a drone, first with a working handgun, then a fully functioning flamethrower. He used the drone in the back yard of his parents’ house.
“I think it’s important not to limit law enforcement or public safety’s ability to protect the public,” Berlin Police Chief Paul Fitzgerald testified at Tuesday’s hearing, according to the Hartford Courant. “You don’t want to get into an arms race, I understand that, but we have to be prepared to handle unforeseen situations … at a public event, a crime or a terrorist incident.”
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David McGuire, a legislative and policy director for the state’s American Civil Liberties Union branch, agreed that providing police with armed drones could have the potential for creating new problems.
“We are concerned that there could be misuse, particularly on vulnerable communities,” he testified at Tuesday’s hearing, the Fox affiliate reported.
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