In America, there is a reasonable expectation that the authorities are only observing you if you are either committing or a crime, or under investigation for committing a crime.
This assumption, while certainly not always the case, comes to us from the 4th Amendment, as well as a number of ethics laws on the books that prevent the police from spying on you until you make an action that piques their interest. This is the Land of The Free, after all, and we have been granted the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, so long as that happiness doesn’t involve harm to others.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course, with Constitutional lawyers railing against “stop and frisk” tactics, as well as entrapment schemes such as DUI checkpoints. While some of these police maneuvers will prevent crimes from occurring, they are far from following the intent of the law and are often used to meet financial quotas for struggling departments who know that they can make a few hundred bucks by stopping every car leaving downtown areas on St. Patrick’s Day.
Now, however, the Los Angeles Police Department is taking their overuse of surveillance to the next level.
“After months of often-heated debate, a civilian oversight panel Tuesday signed off on a yearlong test of drones by the Los Angeles Police Department, which will become the largest police department in the nation to deploy the controversial technology.
“The Police Commission’s 3-1 vote prompted jeers, cursing and a small protest that spilled into a downtown intersection just outside the LAPD’s glass headquarters — evidence of the opposition police have faced in recent weeks as they tried to reassure wary residents that the airborne devices would not be misused.
“The use of drones — or ‘small Unmanned Aerial Systems,’ in police-speak — has become a contentious issue for law enforcement in Los Angeles, where the nation’s largest sheriff’s department has flown one since January.
“Advocates say camera-mounted drones could help protect officers and others by collecting crucial information during high-risk situations or searches without risking their safety. For many privacy advocates and police critics, however, the drones stir Orwellian visions of unwarranted surveillance or fears of militarized, weapon-toting devices patrolling the skies.”
L.A. has said that they currently have no intention of weaponizing the tools, which has provided only a sliver of relief to those who understand the implications of such tools becoming commonplace.
When conspiracy theorists clamored on and on about a “police state”, many Americans laughed. The advent of traffic cameras and surveillance technology brought some privacy advocates to the forefront of the discussion, creating an advocacy campaign that opened the eyes of many. Now, with the skies over L.A. becoming a dystopian, 4th-Amendment-nullifying cesspool of surveillance, an uproar can be heard swelling in the distance.