The Department of Justice released its guidelines for department's use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems on Friday, May 22nd. The document explains DOJ's support of UAS use in Law Enforcement and also provides warnings about the protection of Forth Amendment and First Amendment rights, preventing unreasonable or warrantless searches, as well as protecting the Privacy Act of 1974.
With the rise of this new technology, Law Enforcement needs to give great attention to what circumstances their department's uses an Unmanned Ariel Vehicle. One of the historical, but quickly fading fears of the American population is that law enforcement is going to use "drones" to spy on them and keep a constant eye on the public.
The DOJ document is meant more as a compliment to the existing FAA guidelines. Backing the FAA with requirements such as personnel having to undergo continuous training, supervisor permissions before each mission, and obtaining warrants in certain circumstances.
The Department of Justice is also requiring that the data collected from a UAV "containing personally identifiable information" not be held for "more than 180 days unless retention of the information is determined to be necessary for an authorized purpose" (paragraph 10, DOJ). This is a reiteration of the Privacy Act of 1974 and the recent Presidential Memorandum by President Barack Obama (Memorandum). Stressing the importance of constitutional rights and proper investigation procedures.
Paragraph 8 states that even when it is authorized to use a UAV for investigative purposes, the department should consider other methods before engaging in UAV surveillance. Basically, even though these aircraft can be used for a lot of different things and are inherently cost effective and time saving tools, please consider other methods for data collection before using a UAV. We want to keep them, don't over use them.
All in all, the document sounds promising to the future use and integration into law enforcement agencies. Across the board, one of the main concerns with these aircraft is the protection of privacy within the country. The DOJ recognizes these aircraft as a useful tool that can be effective in investigations. The DOJ is basically saying, be careful. While the American population is becoming more and more comfortable with LE using drones for operations, they are still greatly under-informed as a whole. By creating solid standard operating procedures and responsible individuals behind the sticks, LE can expect to use these aircraft for years to come. Understand the aircraft. Stay up to date on the technology and information that is rapidly changing around the world.