Lawmakers in Connecticut are currently exploring the possibility of equipping drones with deadly weapons for use by police. The bill currently up for debate would essentially ban the use of these weaponized drones by anyone but the police force.
“Obviously, this is for very limited circumstances,” Republican State Sen. John Kissel, of Enfield, told CBS New York. He is the co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee that approved the measure Wednesday in a vote of 34-7 and sent it to the House of Representatives, where it will now be debated. “We can certainly envision some incident on some campus or someplace where someone is a rogue shooter or someone was kidnapped and you try to blow out a tire,” he added.
If the measure passes, the state's Police Officer Standards and Training Council would be responsible for determining how exactly the police would be able to use the drones. Law enforcement would be required to receive sufficient training before they could use the weaponized machines, and police would need to meet several other requirements for their use, such as obtaining a warrant before deployment (save for emergency or other specific circumstances), delivering annual reports on how often the drones were used and for what purposes, and establishing laws and penalties regarding the criminal use of such drones.
If the bill passes, Connecticut would be the first state in the U.S. to allow police to use drones equipped with deadly weapons.
Apprehensions regarding how weaponized technology is vulnerable to abuse have already been raised, and the proposal has been met with concern by various civil rights and civil liberties groups. Many of their questions are centered on whether the state is setting a dangerous precedent in the matter of lethal force using drone technology.
“There’s a level of separation that makes it almost video game like where they’re detached from the actual situation,” David McGuire, executive director of the state ACLU, told CBS. “It is really concerning and outrageous that that’s being considered in our state legislature. Lethal force raises this to a level of real heightened concern."
While the bill may have passed the Judiciary Committee, it should be noted that several members said they simply wanted to get a debate started regarding the issue. Some say they actually share concerns regarding weaponizing drones.
To date, only North Dakota allows the use of weaponized drones for its police force, but those drones are equipped with non-lethal weapons such as stun guns and tear gas. Five other states — Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and Wisconsin — explicitly prohibit anyone from using weaponized drones, while Maine and Virginia ban the police from using armed drones.
“I think that police are taught one thing. You put a weapon in their hand, they shoot center mass, they shoot to kill. If it’s going to be used, you’re going to use it to kill somebody,” said Democratic Bridgeport Sen. Edwin Gomes. Only time will tell if the state's House of Representatives agrees with that sentiment.