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Chief Sam Dotson wants to use drones to fight crime

6:05 PM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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By Mike Rush

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has taken the first step in getting a drone, writing to the FAA for approval. He hopes if approved in a year or so we could be seeing them flying through our skies.

They look like beefed up remote control helicopters, they're called unmanned aerial observation platform, but most of us know them as drones and police chief Sam Dotson wants one.

They'd be good, he says, for police chases, like one Monday that ended in south St. Louis.

"To help keep officers safe, to help keep the community safe. For monitoring public space, things like the upcoming Fair St. Louis, baseball games for terrorist, suspicious activity," said Dotson.

He says drones are cost effective because a helicopter, which was used in Monday's chase, costs about $2.5 million. The drones, depending on model and features, cost between $80,000 and $300,000.

He says hope grants will pay for one.

"This is a case where our technology has gotten far ahead of our laws and our ability to protect us from unwarranted government intrusion," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.

He says without laws in place before drones are used in St. Louis, there are too many unanswered questions.

"What are we going to do with the information that we gather? Who will have access to it? How will we protect against improper access? How will we protect against hacking of the data," questioned Mittman.

About security concerns, Dotson said, "These aren't black ops. These aren't things that crawl up the side of your building and look through your building or windows to see what you're doing."

The chief says the cameras would be used in public places where there are already other types of cameras and no expectation of privacy.

The ACLU says it will request a meeting with Dotson to discuss drones. He says he is willing to discuss it.

KSDK

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