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February 2, 2024 40 mins

Drone policing is on the rise. Garrison investigates a aerial surveillance program in southern California and upsets the police chief of Chula Vista.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Welcome to it could happen here. I'm Garrison Davis. Now,
last week I spent a few days in Las Vegas
for the Consumer Electronics Showcase. Most of the time of
the convention, I was just walking around the show floor
looking at various new types of surveillance equipment, AI products,
and various other bullshit that was being pedled to many

(00:28):
industry attendees of CEES. But I was also able to
go to a few panels. Now, panels are really interesting
because you get to hear people who are working inside
industries talk about stuff that they don't usually really publicly
talk about very much. And on the first day of
the convention, I went to a panel about drone technology.
Half of the panel was about how Walmart is launching

(00:49):
new delivery drones in Dallas, Texas. The other half was
about police drones. And that's what we're going to be
talking about here today, how the police are using dr zones,
why they're using drones, and how you can probably expect
to be seeing a lot more drones up in the
sky piloted by either an AI or a police officer.

(01:11):
So let's get started. Cheula Vista is the southernmost kind
of medium sized city in California with the population of
two hundred and seventy eight thousand people. Cheulavista has a
police force of two hundred and eighty nine sworn officers
as well as one hundred and twenty civilian employees. On
top of their nearly three hundred officers, they operate a

(01:33):
drone fleet ten hours a day, seven days a week,
launching high deff camera mounted drones from four locations throughout
their small city. I'm going to quote from an article
from the MIT Technology Review, which did a deep dive
onto Cheullavista's police drones back in February of twenty twenty three. Quote.
Cheulavista uses these drones to extend the power of its

(01:55):
workforce in a number of ways. For example, if only
one officer is available, when two calls come in, one
for an armed suspect and another for shoplifting, an officer
will respond to the first one. But now cvpd's public
Information Officer, Sergeant Anthony Molina, says that dispatchers can send
a drone to surreptitiously trail the suspected shoplifter. Quote, and

(02:19):
this really gets at the heart of how these drones
are going to get used. They exist to funnel more
people into the criminal justice system. Instead of having to
choose between two calls, one of which actually could relate
to saving someone's life, the other just a petty crime.
Now the police can easily follow someone doing a petty
crime while responding to other calls and eventually catch up.

(02:40):
It's a way to just expand the amount of people
that can be arrested and thrown into jail. Nowadays, drones
are pretty common tools for police. Over one thy five
hundred departments currently use drones, usually for special occasions though,
like search and rescue, crime scene documentation, protest surveillance, and
sometimes tracking suspects. But at the moment, only about a

(03:04):
dozen police departments regularly dispatched drones in response to nine
to one one calls, the first of which was Chew
La Vista PD, who launched their quote drone as first
Responder program back in twenty eighteen. Would the goal of
having an unmanned aerial system or drone be proactively deployed

(03:24):
before an officer is on scene. Now we'll hear from
Chief Roxanna Kennedy of the Cheu La Vista Police Department
talking on the drone technology panel at CS We are.

Speaker 2 (03:37):
Seven miles from the Mexico border, and we are the
second largest city in San Diego County. So we have
about two hundred and ninety officers and we serve a
community of about three hundred thousand. Because of the close
proximity to the door, we have a lot of people
that have traveled back and forth. We have a drone
program that I'm awfully proud of. We are responding proactively

(04:02):
to calls for service in our community, and so we
have drone station from fortifuent locations throughout our city. We
have pilots in command that are on the rooftop, and
then we have a operation center where we have smart
officers that are part one to seven pilots that fly
the drones. So we are responding now to calls for
service on average, and an officer on seeing a drone

(04:27):
on scene that's sharing information with our officers light streaming
that information on our cell phones or in our computers
that we're siving information about the call within ninety seconds
on average. And so what it's doing for us in
sure Vista and for our community is we are providing
information rapidly, real time information to officers so that they

(04:48):
can make better decisions so that everyone goes home safely.
We say, the community safer, the officers are safer, and
the subjects that we encounter are safer, so we're offully
proud of what we're doing.

Speaker 1 (05:00):
The way police are able to deploy drones used to
be a lot more limited. The use of drones is
regulated by the FFA, the Federal Aviation Administration. In most cases,
the FFA requires that both hobbyists and police departments only
fly drones within the operator's own line of sight. But
starting back in twenty nineteen, agencies and vendors could start

(05:21):
applying for a beyond visual line of sight or bev
LOOSS waiver from the FFA to fly drones remotely, allowing
for much longer flights in restricted airspace. Chula Vista Pedi
was the first department to get a BEVLOST waiver. The
MIT Tech Review estimated last year that roughly two hundred
and twenty five more departments now have one as well.

Speaker 2 (05:45):
Another thing that I always talk about, because I think
it's critical, is the concept of why we're using drones,
what the benefit is to the community with the use
of our drones, And I truly believe them. And my
officers can pick up their cell phone before they even
respond to the call, and they can look and see

(06:06):
the scene, what's happening, where the individual is. If the
person's facing in the middle of the park, there are
no children around, and there are noo, there's nobody that's
within the reach of this individual harmy, you might not
have to rush into that scene so quickly officers can
de escalate, make better decisions. And I mean, this is
just a game changer for law enforcement. And right now,

(06:29):
you know, we were the first agent agency to be
involved in the integrated Pilot program with the FAA. We're
very proud of that that they trusted us enough for
us to be the organization that brought forward all these
these ideas that are now being utilized in law enforcements. Now.

Speaker 1 (06:47):
I've watched a lot of videos of police talking about
why they're using drones, of drone training companies talking about
why police drones are so important. In one video on
their website, this guy from Skyfire Consulting was talking about
how how police may not have had to kill Tameror
Rice if they simply had a drone watching beforehand so
they could see that it was a toy gun, which

(07:09):
is a ridiculous thing to say, because in the nine
one call that jump started this entire police interaction, it
was expressed that the caller thought the gun was probably
a toy. And this notion that is simply if police
have more ability to surveil, they'll be able to respond
safer and apply less deadly force, I think is a

(07:30):
pretty suspect premise. Now, the effectiveness of drone technology in
law enforcement is challenging to verify and quantify. The MIT
Tech review cannot find any third party studies showing that
drones reduce crime, even after interviewing CVPD officers as well
as drone vendors and researchers quote, nor could anyone provide

(07:53):
statistics on how many additional arrests or convictions came from
using drone technology. I was able to find some on
cvpd's website talking about how many drone initiated interactions resulted
in arrests, but quantifying additional arrests seems to be a
little challenging. Now, if you look at Cheulavista PD's own

(08:14):
drone response to stats, the vast majority of deployments I
estimate around seventy percent are for what the director of
investigations for the privacy rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation
refers to as quote crimes of poverty unquote, which he
believes will be the target of most drone policing as
opposed to violent crime. Nearly thirty percent of Cheulavista's drone

(08:37):
deployments are for what's categorized as disturbances. Almost fifteen percent
are for psychological evaluations, ten percent are for quote, check
the area and information, over seven percent are for welfare checks,
six point five percent is for quote, unknown problem, and
over six percent is for suspicious person and another six

(08:59):
percent for traffic accidents. Now, some drone of deployments do
result in patrol units not having to be dispatched, but
CVPD also says that drones have assisted in thousands of arrests.
And I'm really not sure if having a drone following
someone around is the best thing for a fifty one
to fifty psych evaluation. The presence of a police officer

(09:22):
doesn't always make the situations better either, but I don't
see having a drone be a really calming presence if
you think someone needs mental help. Funding a whole fleet

(09:46):
of heavy duty surveillance drones and paying dedicated operators costs money. Now,
it's unclear to me how many drones to LEVISTAPD currently has,
and on their website they list ten different drone models
currently being in their fleet, most of them really expensive
DGI drones like the DGI Matrix, the DGI Inspire, the

(10:06):
DGA Phantom, the dj Maverick, as well as drones from
a few other random companies. But nevertheless, Chief Kennedy is
very grateful for their local police Foundation for heading up
the funding for their DFR drone first Responder program. Let's
hear from her.

Speaker 2 (10:25):
I don't know if anyone here is in law enforcement,
but many agencies use drunes and there are all different
types of drones that are available. I call them reactive
drums or ones that are like the tactical drunes that
you can use to go in on a hostage situation
or a missing person to check in the canyon areas,

(10:46):
or you know, interior drones. We have drums that go
underneath bands, go inside addicts, all types of different drones,
and many organizations have drones like that, But a DFR
drone is very unique and different because these drones are flying.
As you can imagine, eighteen thousand missions, it puts a
lot of wear and tear on But that is one

(11:07):
of the biggest challenges beyond the fact of funding. So
we don't have huge budgets that are allotted for drone programs,
and so we've had to be very, very creative in
our police department, and we were very blessed to have
a police Foundation that has taken on the responsibility to
help us really start our drone program and continue going forward.

(11:30):
So funding is always going to be a challenge and
dependent upon the drone that you use. There are some
drones that you can't get any as you can't use
for assets seizure funding, nor can you get grants for
because sometimes when it comes to foreign drones there are
many challenges as well. So you have to think of
that and then we deal with legislation. Right now, that's

(11:51):
the new challenge that we all have. We have to
fite some bals. Like I said, I'm agnostic. I want
to use what's the best drum out there and protect
the information and we do that with encrypted software programs
that are on private servers. But you'll see that there's
a lot of discussion about drones and what drones we

(12:12):
should be using right now.

Speaker 1 (12:14):
We'll get back to the chief's offhanded mention of legal
battles in a bit here, but Chula Vista's budgetary situation
may not be as dire as the Chief makes it
out to be, on top of their current fifty five
million dollar operating budget. Back in twenty twenty, the Loprenza
newspaper revealed that departments in San Diego County had secretly

(12:36):
been getting hundreds of millions of dollars in high tech
police equipment, including armored vehicles, facial recognition and phone breaking software,
license plate readers, drones, riot gear, among other miscellaneous technology,
as a part of a DHS grant program. Due to
their close proximity to the US Mexico border, Cheula Vista

(12:57):
was one such department, and as of twenty twenty, so
four years ago, they had already received over one million
dollars in grant funds from this DHS program, titled the
quote Urban Area Security Initiative. Considering Chief Kennedy's budgetary concerns,
drones actually have a lot of upsides financially, as they

(13:18):
are often a lot cheaper than alternative surveillance methods, as
well as being relatively easy to deploy remotely, either with
a joystick or just by clicking a point on a
map from a comfy office building. Issues around this ease
of use was pointed out by Dave Moss, the director
of investigations for the privacy rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation,

(13:40):
who was quoted in the MIT article saying, quote, up
until the last like five to ten years, there was
this unspoken check and balance on law enforcement power money.
You cannot have a police officer standing on every corner
of every street. You can't have a helicopter flying twenty
four seven because of fuel and insurance is really expensive.
But with all these new technologies, we don't have that

(14:02):
check and balance anymore. That's just going to result in
more people being pulled through the criminal justice system.

Speaker 2 (14:09):
My officers constantly are on the air now is U
as one available? Is US one available? Because it's giving
them more information. Think about the fact that you can
look at your cell phone. I could be anywhere in
the world and I can look at kit lets me
know whenever there's a drone flock, and I can walk.
I can have visual awareness, aial overlay of what's happening

(14:30):
in my community, no matter where I am.

Speaker 1 (14:34):
Advancements in technology are leading to further normalization of police surveillance.
Ten years ago, would people react to news of a
twenty four hour police drone program the same way they
would now. What was once the threat of big Brother
has since become a very sought after, unfetishized nanny state.

(14:57):
In the v for Veneta graphic novel, anarchist writer Alan
Moore imagined a fascist Britain characterized by surveillance cameras around
every corner, and now cities around the country are setting
up their own street mounted cameras, linked to private security
cameras and ring doorbell cameras to create a network of
life coverage around a whole city which is instantly accessible

(15:19):
to police. The more widespread consumer adoption of new technologies
like small camera mounted drones and doorbell cameras, the more
acceptable it seems for police to add such technology to
their arsenal of surveillance tools. It almost becomes expected to
LAVISTIPEDI has routinely declined to answer why their drones are

(15:41):
always recording both to and from the scene, and the
department has put in a lot of effort into managing
the backlash against their expanding drone program.

Speaker 2 (15:51):
And I'll tell you one thing. Even some of the
day after this, they were very concerned about drones in
the sense of privacy. What are you doing with these drones?
As you're responding, you're trying to gather data and information
to spy on us, right, And we had to go
to a lot of detail and explaining that as our
drone lits off, it is immediately it is recording because

(16:12):
that's the information gatherer for us. As that drone responds,
the camera is already going almost three miles down the
roads where the scene is and giving us vital information
as the officers are responding. But one of the criticism was, well,
on the way back, is your drone just going in
my backyard? What if we're spoking marijuana in our backyard?

(16:32):
And I said, you're in California, it doesn't really matter.
But what we let that way go, right, But we said, okay,
we gave your concern. And so what we did was
we worked with the software company that we were with,
and they created an automatic so that as a drone returns,
it automatically tilts to the horizon. So we're not recording anything.

(16:56):
If another call came out, we can immediately we'll go
back a flight mapping for us and it will share
that information later on. But the goal is to listen
to your community as well.

Speaker 1 (17:08):
Chief Kennedy's claim here is difficult to back up because
CVPD have refused to show the public any of the
drone footage they routinely collect. But if we take the
Chief at her word here anyway, she admits that the
drone goes back to recording at street level as soon
as there's another nine one one call, as they record
everything on the way to a scene. And the way

(17:29):
she phrases this whole tilt feature is quite misleading because
the camera never actually stops recording. She just claims that
it tilts slightly upwards in between nine one one calls,
but it's still capturing footage up to three miles away
the entire time it's in the air. Police in Cheulavista

(17:50):
have flown over eighteen thousand missions with their drowns. That's
a lot of footage. When talking about the privacy concerns
had by some residents of Cheulavista, Chief Kennedy really emphasized
how much her in the department really care about listening
to community feedback and how data transparency is so important
to CVPD.

Speaker 2 (18:10):
Community engagement is essential, especially in law enforcement because there
is there are so many challenges when it comes to
misinformation that's out there, and whenever you're a part of
what's deemed as a government, everyone thinks that you have
some ulterior motive when you're involved with any type of technology,
and so we have worked really hard to build very

(18:33):
strong relationships with every aspect of our community. So it
was about in twenty fifteen when we started talking about
the concept and the possibility of drones and a laugh
with Chancel, said George Jensen, because that's my story that
I used to and I love it because I made
fun of my guys when they said that we want
to fly drunes. I said, oh, come on, now, what
are we in me? George jetson blind the cars, and

(18:54):
then I saw today they talked about a blind car.
So it happens. It happens, right, And so with the community,
we started having these conversations. We created a working group,
we started doing community forums. We started asking the community
about what would you think if we were able to
do something like this. We even went to some of

(19:14):
the organizations that may not always be so supportive of
these types of groups. We worked with the ASL you
and asked for their input on our policy. So before
we ever flew a drune, we call it the krawl
walk run base. We're still at the very end of crawl.
We're not into lock yet and we've been doing it

(19:36):
again also for five years. So you have to make
certain that you're transparent and we provided all types of
information that are available. If you go to all you
have put in is jobs to place drums and it'll
come up with us and you can look at all
the things that we do, all the information that we share,
the flight maps that we share. I mean, it's just

(19:59):
super important to have those community forums. Every year. We
do a community forum twice a year where we ask
for from our community.

Speaker 1 (20:08):
Later on in the panel, Chief Kennedy said that CVPD
is quote unquote extremely transparent about their flight data and
quote unquote have nothing to hide relating to their use
of surveillance drones, which is a curious claim considering the
fact that CVPD has historically kept all drone footage hidden

(20:30):
from the public and has fought in court to do so,
despite the chief's emphasis on the police's commitment to transparency
and the importance of listening to community feedback, even going
as far as to consult the ACLU when developing their
drone program. For years now, the Cheulvista Police Department has

(20:51):
denied all FOYA and public records requests for any drone footage.
In response, are Turno Castanares, a Teu Livista resident and
owner of the local bilingual newspaper Loprenza, filed a lawsuit
against the city. CVPD argued that all drone footage should
be categorically exempt from the public records requests on the

(21:12):
basis that the footage could be used for a future investigation.
Just last December, only a few weeks before Cees, the
California Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled that this blanket
exemption is invalid and that not all drone first responder
footage could be classified as part of appending or ongoing

(21:32):
criminal investigation, pointing to examples such as nine oh one
calls about a roaming mountain lion or a stranded motorist.
And police were not happy about this ruling. I'll talk
about their reaction at the end of the episode, but
controlling the narrative about the drone first Responder program has
been of the utmost importance to Trulavista Police. As the

(21:56):
chief herself expressed at the panel, feel good about telling
our story.

Speaker 2 (22:02):
If you don't tell your own story in law enforcement,
other people will tell it for it and it might
not be the right story. So we've gotten really good
at sharing on our social media and through YouTube channels
and everything success stories of what we're doing.

Speaker 1 (22:19):
That is quite the claim there, to paraphrase the Electronic
Frontier Foundation. Without public access to their drone footage, it
makes it very difficult to assess how much privacy you
have in Cheula Vista and whether police are even following
their own rules about when and whether they record sensitive
places like people's homes, backyards, or public protests. And that's

(22:44):
why this recent ruling and the legal precedent it sets
is a huge win for actual transparency and marks the
first step towards the public finally getting a look at
how these drones are being used in Scheula Vista. With

(23:09):
drone first responder programs is spreading to police departments across
the country, modeled after the one in Chula Vesta. Combined
with the increasing presence of stationary street level cameras, the
ability for police to be watching everywhere without the need
for on the ground officers creates what the eff refers
to as quote, a fundamental change in strategy with police

(23:31):
responding to a much much larger number of situations with drones,
resulting in pervasive, if not persistent, surveillance of communities unquote.
Speaking of persistent surveillance, near the end of the panel,
the chief announced that to Lavesta, PD is planning to
expand their ten hour a day drone first responder program

(23:53):
to a constant twenty four hour a day drone surveillance program,
more than doubling the department's capaccy need to have eyes
in the sky would mean a lot more work hours
for drone operators, as well as a large increase in
the amount of video files being stored indefinitely, But Chief
Kennedy claimed that they're looking into offsetting costs by replacing

(24:14):
some of the drone piloting team with AI assisted piloting
and autonomous devices.

Speaker 2 (24:19):
You've clearly been a leader with thrones's first responder and technology.
Looking forward, what is the future hole for the Department.
I assume you're spending a lot of time telling others
about the program edition using drones, but beyond that, what's
it at Well, my hope is that we'll be moving
towards twenty four hour operations. Right now, we're from sunrise

(24:43):
to sunset. We go till close to ten o'clock at night,
which goes a little bit beyond that. And then one
of the challenges, and I know you're only getting like
a little piece of the information about exactly how we're
doing this, but from the four different locations that we
fly on each of the rooftops, we have what's called
piloting command, and that piloting command is contracted through a

(25:03):
company and we and they just have visual awareness of
the sky and they work in coordination with our drone
pilot that's inside our operations center. But that's a huge
expense for us to pay lead for each site. Right now,
with the operations that we have, we paint about one
hundred thousand dollars per year, So that's four hundred thousand

(25:24):
dollars for four locations. Beyond all the other proces associating
and so if you get expensive, my hope is that
and we keep hearing about it. We've seen some of
the testing and we've been testing it as well in
our area. Are what's called drone in the box or
there's some of the systems that are out there right
now that organizations are using that are autonomous, and so

(25:47):
we're getting there, but we're not quite there because it's
very different when you're dealing with flying over people and
you're flying into areas where the drone was to drop
out of the sky and harkey a community. That could
create tremendous challenges for a silver Barry. As I mentioned
the crawl things.

Speaker 1 (26:07):
So to explain how these AI autonomous drones would work,
It's essentially this box about the size of a truck
bed that can either be mounted in like a police
pickup truck or be stored on various rooftops around the city,
and someone just needs to point at a place on
a map and the drone will fly in pilot itself
around obstacles and basically circle around an area to do

(26:29):
surveillance and you can call it back when you're done.
This would require a whole bunch of drones to just
be launching and being piloted by themselves. You wouldn't have
to train random police officers to become FAA licensed pilots,
and you could just have the whole thing in the box,
like it's called drone in the box. And these are
only going to become more common and cheaper. Imagine having

(26:50):
ten of these throw out a city, launching from like
ten different rooftops, being able to fly around by themselves,
constantly going around in communities, constantly going to GPS coordinates
linked to the nine one one calls, creating a whole
wealth of footage instantly available to police, live streamed from
the air. Matt Sloane, the founder of Skyfire Consulting, a

(27:12):
company here in Atlanta that trains law enforcement agencies on
the use of drones and DFR programs, thinks that we'll
start seeing autonomous deployment of police drones within the next
year or two, as police budgets increase and become allocated
for unmanned aerial systems. He referred to the state of
drone use by police as quote rapidly escalating. Chula Vista

(27:35):
likes to market itself as a pioneer of this smart
city movement, which consequently makes them able to receive a
whole bunch of grant funding. Now, the idea of the
smart city is built around having a massive amount of
data to automate certain city services. So for this idea
to work, there needs to be a way to collect

(27:56):
that data, and these drones are a major part of that.
The website for the City of Tula Vista also lists
projects like electronic transportation, adaptive traffic signals in app for
non emergency city services, as well as quote crime mapping
and police dispatch modernization unquote as also being smart city initiatives.

Speaker 2 (28:20):
We have what's called by nine one one one and
that allows my officers to hear incoming nine more one
calls before dispatchally even puts it into the system. They
can hear what's going on there, and that is tremendously
in valuable to them. We have so many different layers
of technology that have really showcase the value.

Speaker 1 (28:42):
Live nine one one is a new piece of software
that allows patrol officers to listen to live stream to
nine one one calls directly and pinpoints the location of
the caller via GPS. Now, I don't even have time
to get into the many reasons that this could be
a bad idea, but simply but police do not need
to respond to every call that goes into nine one one,

(29:04):
let alone be giving random cops this ability to self
dispatch on their own. It just seems like that could
have many, many consequences. But anyway, back to drones. According
to a twenty twenty article in the newspaper Loprenza, cities
in San Diego County like Chula Vista have received equipment
such as tethered drones used for stationary surveillance, poll cameras,

(29:27):
license plate readers, and cell phone cracking technology used to
circumvent passwords from the Urban Area Security Initiative DHS grant program.
A lot of these technologies have use in the Smart
City Idyllic plan for data collection to automate city services.
After the drone panel was over and I was walking

(29:47):
around the show floor at CEES, I couldn't help but
notice all of the smart cameras and AI image recognition
systems being advertised for law enforcement applications. Software that can
almost instantaneously scan through a wealth of footage and track
people's movements, run facial recognition, and identify every article of clothing.

(30:10):
Versions of this type of software are already in use
by many police departments, and they will only get better, cheaper,
and more common. In effect, what this does is remove
a lot of the detective legwork. Instead of having to
manually map someone's movements and track down what niche etsy
shirt someone's wearing, these aisystems can now do this all automatically.

(30:32):
To quote the MIT Tech Review article on cvpd's dfr
drone program, quote, As the technology continues to spread, privacy
and civil liberty groups are raising the question of what
happens when drones are combined with license plate readers, networks
of fixed cameras, and new real time command centers that
digest and sort through video evidence. This digital dragnet could

(30:54):
dramatically expand surveillance capabilities and lead to even more police
interactions demographics that have historically suffered from over policing. Unquote.
Pedro Rios, a human rights advocate with the American Friends
Service Committee and a member of Chula Vista's Community Tech Council,
was quoted in the MIT article saying, quote, people in

(31:15):
the community have no awareness of what images are captured,
how the footage is retained, and who has access. It's
a big red flag for a city that says it's
at the forefront of the smart city movement.

Speaker 2 (31:27):
Unquote, these drawns, they're revolutionizing the world. You I mean
people who are not taking drawn seriously right now, who
will be left behind. We have flown eighteen one hundred
and fifty missions. You can go on a web page,
you can see the flight dream. We're extremely transparent. We

(31:48):
share all that with our community. We have no need
to hide. We are in the business of saving wise
and I believe drones are one of the best estories.
She folds them.

Speaker 1 (31:57):
If they truly have nothing to hide and are extremely
transparent about the use of their camera mounted drones, I
wonder why they've spent years in court fighting to keep
every second of drone footage from being seen by the public. Luckily,
after Chief Kennedy talked for like thirty minutes about how
much they care about community engagement and how transparent they

(32:19):
are with their flight data, I was able to ask
the Chief how their commitment to transparency relates to the
recent lawsuit she just lost over hiding drone footage. And
I also threw in a question about drones at protests.
Let's take a listen.

Speaker 2 (32:35):
Yeah, a question for the chief.

Speaker 3 (32:36):
So I know you talked about the importance of like
listening to the community and community engagement. And I'm not
sure this is the case for your department, but other
departments who've kind of followed suit, for your example, have
been using drones to surveil first time in activity stuff.
And i know you recently lost a court case regarding
the availability of drone footage, so I'm curious about kind

(32:57):
of what the rationale for that footage is and how
that plays into this idea of trying to be transparent
with the community for how these drones are being used.

Speaker 2 (33:08):
That's going to be going to be a little bit
difficult for me to answer because the court case is
still moving forward. It's an active case. If you read it,
we didn't lose the case. It was recommended to go
to a lower core to go back for some clarification
under three categories.

Speaker 1 (33:27):
Now this is either a straight upply or a huge
cope and a gross mischaracterization. But more on that in
a sec I think.

Speaker 2 (33:35):
It's really important. As I mentioned, there are ethics involved
in The ethical responsibility that you have as a law
enforcement agency is super important. So how you utilize your
drones and how you do outreach with your community is
fundamentally important, and so we don't use our drones for

(33:58):
if there was a protest, we would not use our
drones if there was if it turned into a riot.
So if people were out there and they have the
ability to to speak freely, to share their concerns, and
if it's in opposition, our goal is to make sure

(34:19):
that we keep it safe for all parties involved on
either side. So my hope is that other people look
at it the same way that we do, and hopefully
I've been able to answer it as much as I
leave me. I'm dying to give you more than I can't. Okay,
thank you for those questions. Folks were out of time.
Maybe there could be questions after the session.

Speaker 1 (34:41):
So yeah, there were no more questions after mine. I
kind of shut down that possibility anyway. Okay. So, first
of all, the line between a protest and a riot
is meaningless. Police can declare a riot for any reason
they see fit, including people being in a road marching.
I've seen this happen and times, nearly hundreds of times actually,

(35:03):
So just moving on from that immediately, let's go back
to the court case. The city of Cheulavista did lose
the argument that they were trying to make. They did
lose the case. The Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled
that claiming exemption from the Public Records Act was unlawful
and sent the case back to trial court to hammer
the details of how much footage is subject to public

(35:26):
disclosure and figure out a process for standardizing the release
of the footage. Now. The same day I attended this
panel in Las Vegas, January ninth, the city of Chula
Vista requested an appeal to the California Supreme Court to
prevent the release of their aerial video footage. There is
a sixty day waiting period where the High Court will

(35:48):
decide whether or not to take the case, and if
they decline finally, it will go back to trial court
to decide on the process of how selected drone footage
shall be made publicly available. The police US are now
currently claiming that making DFI footage adhere to the Public
Records Act would violate the privacy of Chula Vista residents

(36:09):
captured in the videos, which perhaps demonstrates that the aerial
videos should have never been captured in the first place.
I'm going to read a press release from the city's
communication manager. Quote, the city declined to provide the copies
because doing so might have violated individual privacy rights. The
city would have to manually review and redact every video

(36:31):
recording to protect information considered personal, such as the images
of faces, license plates, backyards, and more unquote. So the
city is both trying to argue that having to manually
review each requested file to determine if the video in
question is related to a pending investigation, as well as
redacting personal information captured on camera, would be way too

(36:53):
costly and time consuming. City officials claim that reviewing and
redacting videos from one month to obscure faces, license plates,
and backyards would take a full time employee around two
hundred and thirty days. I'm going to read a little
bit more from the city's recent statement.

Speaker 2 (37:09):
Quote.

Speaker 1 (37:10):
While the city takes very seriously its obligation to provide
the public access to public records, the city is concerned
that the Court of Appeal's opinion may compromise significant privacy
concerns of members of the public in this case or
in future requests unquote. Somehow, the city is missing the

(37:32):
point that this is the very reason the drone footage
is being requested. To learn the actual nature of this
highly influential drone first responder program that's being adopted across
the country. If the existence of this footage is such
a massive privacy violation, that implies that the recording of
said footage itself implicitly violates people's privacy, And the harder

(37:56):
police fight to hide their sweeping collection of aerial footage
wi all the more suspicious this entire program seems. So
that is what I have to say about Chula Vista's
drone first responder program. In about a month and a half,
the Supreme Court of California will make their decision on
whether or not they're going to hear this case. If

(38:16):
they decline, then the president will be set statewide against
this exemption of the Public Records Act by hiding drone footage.
So that will be really cool, And then hopefully within
the next year we'll finally be able to see what
some of this footage actually looks like, how good their
cameras are, how much they can zoom in all of
the details of how much of the city they're capturing,

(38:37):
all this kind of stuff, how often the drones are
in the air, all of those types of things that
it will be easier to highlight once we can actually
take a look at the footage. And I assume that
going through and releasing requested files for one month will
probably end up not taking two hundred and thirty days.
But I do know how the police love to love
to stretch out these public records requests for as long

(38:59):
as they can. As the request that this lawsuit stems from.
It's all the way back to April of twenty twenty one,
so hopefully, hopefully more than three years later, we'll finally
get a look. Special thanks to Loprenza for starting this
lawsuit and doing all of the hard work to actually
force the police to be transparent. And if you want

(39:20):
to read more, I'd recommend checking out their website to
Loprensa dot org, as well as the MIT tech review piece,
which provided some really really useful information to fill in
the gaps between my own research. So yeah, thank you
for listening to It could happen here. It certainly could
happen here in terms of seeing more of these little
fuckers flying around in the air. It could happen here

(39:41):
as a production of cool Zone Media. For more podcasts
from cool Zone Media, visitor our website coolzonemedia dot com,
or check us out on the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts,
or wherever you listen to podcasts, you can find sources
for It could happen here, Updated monthly at coolzonemedia dot
com slash sources. Thanks for listening.

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