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Connecticut could be first US state to deploy deadly drones

Connecticut could become the first state in the United States to allow police to use weaponised drones if a bill becomes law.

Published: April 2, 2017, 11:06 am

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    Three police departments in the state have already begun to deploy drones within the past year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.

    The bill, which was approved overwhelmingly by the state legislature’s judiciary committee on Wednesday, would ban deadly drones in the state but exempts police and other agencies involved in law enforcement, the AP reported.

    Similar legislation to regulate drones in the state failed in 2016.

    The bill is set to go before the House of Representatives for consideration with new rules to be developed by the state Police Officer Standards and Training Council. Officers will need training before being allowed to use deadly drones.

    The weaponisation provision is part of House Bill 7260, a broader bill that regulates the use of remote-controlled drones, by both police and members of the public, for the first time, allowing officers to use the technology if they obtain a warrant and operate within certain parameters.

    But civil liberties organisations are against the bill. “Data shows police force is disproportionately used on minority communities, and we believe that armed drones would be used in urban centers and on minority communities,” said David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut. “We would be setting a dangerous precedent,” McGuire added.

    The anti-white NAACP echoed McGuire’s concerns about black minorities: “We have huge concerns that they would use this new technology to abuse our communities,” said Scot X. Esdaile, president of state chapter of the NAACP.

    North Dakota is currently the only state that allows police to use weaponised drones, but limits the use to “less lethal” weapons, including stun guns, rubber bullets and tear gas. The Connecticut measure contains no such restrictions.

    Five states – Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin – prohibit the total use of weaponised drones, while Maine and Virginia ban police from using armed drones, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    Several other states have restricted drone use in general. So far, 36 states have enacted laws restricting drones and an additional four states have adopted drone limits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    The use of unmanned remote-controlled devices in the US and by the US has risen sharply in recent years and more than 20 states have passed laws regulating them.

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