Privacy SOS

“Drones may soon buzz through local skies”

No sooner did we learn that the Alameda County (California) sheriff was seeking funds to purchase a surveillance drone, than we found out from the October 21 Boston Globe that a Massachusetts SWAT team, MetroLEC, had applied for clearance from Federal Aviation Administration to use an “unmanned aerial vehicle” (UAV).

MetroLEC is the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council, a consortium of  43 police departments and other law enforcement agencies in the region just west of Boston, ranging from Braintree and Milton, south to Duxbury, north to Weston, and west to Bellingham. 

Its activities include alarming the residents of a quiet neighborhood in Braintree when a dozen heavily armed SWAT officers turned their floodlights on the home of a 61-year-old woman who, a spokesman said, was “dealing with some medical issues.”  Why have a SWAT team extract her from her house?  Because she was a 36-year veteran with the Boston police department and therefore “she was clearly armed.”

Earlier this year, the MetroLEC SWAT team joined members of the Northern Bristol County Regional Drug Task Force in a sweep of Mansfield High School.  They locked down the school and reportedly seized “bottles of marijuana” and issued two students with civil marijuana citations.

They seem to be well equipped with trendy technology.  A year ago, in response to a report that a 22-year-old Sudbury man had “a large knife” and could have other weapons, they evacuated nearby homes and then sent a robot into his house to scout its layout.  

Now they want one or more flying robots.   According to the Globe report, they are reportedly about to try out a 2-pound Skate, which “fits in a backpack and delivers live video to the operator’s control device.  It can also carry an infrared camera, which can help spot people by the heat their bodies give off.”

As yet, there are absolutely no privacy protections in place to protect the 40 MetroLEC communities from the gaze of the Skate or whatever UAV is introduced into the skies above them.

The ACLU of Massachusetts is seeking more information and will soon be reporting on actions you can take to push back against this harbinger of the coming drone invasion – especially if you are from one of these MetroLEC communities.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.