Virginia governor Bob McDonnell said this week that he thinks it would be a good thing if police drones were flying over Virginia. Unfortunately, he wasn’t joking.
He was taking the approach of using technology to save time and money while helping to keep police officers out of danger. It’s a good thing when government officials look for ways to save money and lives, and I’m all for using advancements in technology to do that. There are some problems I with this concept.
Monitoring from above is rarely cost effective. This idea is similar to the idea of police cameras monitoring streets from above. In those cases, surveillance is costly and contributes to very few arrests being made.
Police monitoring is not police presence. An unmanned drone is unable to stop a crime, make an arrest, or even deter criminals by its presence (unless we arm the drones, but let’s not give them that idea).
Unmanned Drones are an invasion of privacy. According to the 4th Amendment, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” What’s more unreasonable than monitors in the air that can track where you go, what you do, how you get there, who you talk to, and how long you’re gone?
I’m sure McDonnell has good intentions with this idea, but while the concept can have some talking points that sound good, we need to really understand the consequences of its implementation. We can’t get to the point where we think that having police eyes looking down on us from above is a good thing.