May 1, 2013 | 7:34 EDT
In response to the disturbing revelation that Seattle’s police department had recently obtained aerial drones, the Seattle City Council passed a law in late March that mandates that government departments obtain Council approval before purchasing surveillance equipment. It also establishes robust reporting protocols so the public will know how and when data from police surveillance will be collected, retained, and used. These protocols must be approved by the Council before any surveillance equipment can be used. The Seattle ordinance comes as communities around the country begin to debate the use of drones by state and local law enforcement agencies.
Councilmember Nick Licata, the chair of the Local Progress Board, was a lead sponsor of the legislation. “For me, the question is should a free society allow personal activities that occur in public to come under 24/7 surveillance?” Licata said. “I think that this legislation strikes a balance that provides for safety without compromising the principles of our democracy.”