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Address privacy with drone policy

Now that the Brookhaven Police Department has acquired a drone and permission from the Board of Aldermen to apply to the FAA for permission to use it, the real work should begin.

That work will involve the creation of policies and procedures to ensure the drone is used in a way that does not violate privacy rights.

The drone will have FLIR capabilities — Forward Looking Infrared. The drone has imaging technology that uses a heat source to create a picture. It will allow police officers to see heat sources (people) from great distances, something very useful when searching for a missing person or conducting a search and rescue mission.

The drone will also be used for crowd control at festivals and similar events and to assist with investigations during suspected criminal activities, police said.

There are privacy concerns. Some states require a warrant before using a drone for that very reason.

“These are great tools to use but they can be abused and we want to make sure that they’re being used for the purpose intended,” city attorney Joe Fernald said. “This is a new area of the law so we want to make sure whatever you do you do right so you can use it in court.”

Fernald’s concern is about drone evidence being used in court. An equally important concern is that protections are put in place to ensure privacy rights are not violated.

We are grateful BPD is exploring new technologies to help make the city safer. We encourage the department and the city to make sure privacy doesn’t get forgotten in the process.

State lawmakers should also address this new technology so there are consistent rules in place across Mississippi.