Connecting state and local government leaders

Connecticut Bill Would Allow Weaponized Drones for Police

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

But these types of unmanned aircraft systems would be off limits to the general public.

Police drones could be armed with guns and tear gas should a first-of-its-kind Connecticut bill, headed to the state House floor, become law.

The regulations would criminalize members of the general public weaponizing an unmanned aircraft system, and an amendment would require the state Police Officer Standards and Training Council to teach law enforcement operators how to use them.

A resounding 34-7 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the legislation, though lawmakers for and against worried armed drones would escalate conflicts.

“I think that police are taught that once you put a weapon in their hands, they shoot to kill,” Sen. Edwin Gomes, a Democrat who voted for the bill, told the Connecticut Post. “It’s a weapon. If you’re going to use it, you’re going to use it to kill someone.”

North Dakota was the first state to weaponize drones but limited them to using nonlethal force like stun guns, The Associated Press reported. And 35 states have unmanned aircraft systems laws on the books with 37 considering more regulations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Five states—Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin—prohibit the weaponization of drone aircraft, according to the NCSL, while Maine, North Dakota and Virginia prohibit their use by law enforcement.

Connecticut NAACP President Scot Esdaile told the AP he opposes the legislation for fear of police misuse.

Republican Sen. John Kissel said he envisioned drones being used similar to North Dakota, but that’s left to law enforcement’s discretion.

Lawmakers can still suggest changes to the legislation, and some have voiced concerns the regulations are too harsh on violators whose drones crash with commercial or private aircraft.

“This bill has had a hard time over the last few years getting past the finish line because it is complicated, and it’s a balancing of individual rights and law enforcement,” Kissel said.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington D.C.

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