Hello, 911? The Drone is on its Way

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Severe budget cuts in Denver bring a new initiative in which drones will respond to certain 911 emergency calls for non-critical situations.

The Denver police clarified that while they cannot afford to send human officers to every location automatically, they will do so if a caller specifically requests the physical presence of an officer.

Phil Gonshak from the Denver Police Department told The Denver Post: “The DPD would respond to any call for service where someone is physically requesting a police officer on scene. We would never simply replace calls-for-service response by police officers… But if there was a fight at Colfax and Cherokee and we put a drone in the air and there is no fight and nothing causing traffic issues, then we would reroute our police officers to other emergency calls.”

According to Cybernews, the drones will essentially be used to “scope out” the location of a reported incident and stream live video back to the operator in a patrol vehicle, who could then provide real-time updates to responding officers.

Gonshak added that ultimately, the goal would be to turn drones into default first respondents, so the information they relay would help the police decide if human cops need to react as well.

However, this trend has some experts and citizens worried – the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has long been raising their concerns over law enforcement’s use of drones, and activists are worried about privacy issues and excessive surveillance.

The ACLU claims that drones should only be used with a warrant or in an emergency and that images should be retained only when they could contain evidence of a crime or are relevant to an ongoing investigation or trial.

“Drones have many beneficial uses, including in search-and-rescue missions, scientific research, mapping, and more. But deployed without proper regulation, drones equipped with facial recognition software, infrared technology, and speakers capable of monitoring personal conversations would cause unprecedented invasions of our privacy rights,” says the ACLU.

It is important to note that nowadays, over 1,400 law enforcement agencies across the US are using drones for many different needs – from traffic surveillance and missing person searches to first response to crimes in progress.