Police use of drones discussed

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony Feb. 14 on a bill that would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using drones—aerial vehicles that are piloted remotely—to gather evidence or collect other information.

Under LB412, introduced by Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher, a civil action could be brought against a law enforcement agency in violation and any evidence gathered would be inadmissible in court.

Schumacher said the federal Environmental Protection Agency has conducted drone surveillance on Nebraska farmers. The invasion of privacy is a significant concern for Americans, he said, and the government should not be allowed to spy on law-abiding citizens.

Drones are inexpensive and easy to operate, he said, so nothing is preventing law enforcement from using them. The bill would prohibit the use of surveillance by local law enforcement and protect citizens’ privacy rights, he said.

Amy Miller, representing ACLU Nebraska, testified in support of the bill, saying there have been several drone flights over Nebraska to monitor farmers’ water usage.

“Drones are fine to monitor high security areas in battlefields,” she said. “They do not need to be used in Nebraskans’ backyards.”

No one testified in opposition and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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