From Bay City News:
A proposal to buy a drone for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office was sent to a committee for further study Tuesday after the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups raised objections.
Sheriff Greg Ahern has said that the drone, which he prefers to call an unmanned aerial system, tactical operations and for responding to disasters, fires and hazardous materials incidents.
But Will Matthews of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California said the ACLU has obtained documents showing that sheriff's officials also plan to use the drone for surveillance and intelligence-gathering purposes.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote Tuesday to accept a $31,646 grant to help pay for an unmanned aerial system but the matter was referred to their Public Protection Committee for a hearing in January so that there's more public input.
Matthews said, "To Sheriff Ahern's credit, he realized that it needs more discussion before it goes forward and asked that it be pulled from
Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said Ahern will draft a policy to ensure that a drone wouldn't be used for random surveillance.
However, Nelson said the sheriff's office would like to use a drone for situations in which there is a barricaded suspect and other missions for which there would be a specific purpose instead of random snooping.
The $31,646 grant is part of a larger $1.2 million Department of Homeland Security grant to Alameda County dispersed through the California Emergency Management Agency.
Matthews said, "We believe that there should be a robust conversation about safeguards" before an aerial system is approved.
He said other groups who are concerned about the aerial system are the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a new local coalition called Alameda County Against Drones.