Sunday, March 20, 2016

Hennepin County Sheriff watching us from afar with drones?

It was not the public that got the first chance to see a drone being flown under the auspices of the Hennepin County Sheriff last Thursday. (March 17, 2016)  But a number of specially invited people including policymakers.  A legislator confirmed being invited, but did not attend because "too busy" at the Capitol.

The acquisition of a drone by the state's largest populated county raises issues that the public has a right to weigh in on.  For example, the broad expansion of surveillance of individuals that greatly increases what "plain view" and public visibility means.

Does the Sheriff' have rules and policies for his own, leased or possible drones?  If Hennepin County Sheriff has policies are they like swiss-cheese with holes that allows for exploitation of these unmanned aerial vehicles with our privacy rights and civil liberties?  Did the Sheriff get the drones with own appropriated dollars from the County specifically approved by elected Commissioner's?  Homeland Security grant?  Or a deal with a vendor for free or low cost?

With no state law on the books yet for drones, will the Sheriff and supposedly other law enforcement agencies who may have them in Minnesota get search warrants?  What is the role of Federal Aviation Administration regulations and authorization which were just recently released?

Under leadership of Sheriff Stanek, (also BCA) there has been past purchases of sophisticated technology such as the KingFish (cell-phone surveillance device) which can and has compromised individual privacy rights. One reason for law change by the Minnesota Legislature in 2014.

Special invitees got notice about Sheriff Stanek's new tech toy, but no member of the media or public. It was clearly emphasized by the Sheriff, no media or public were to be allowed   This is not unusual behavior of law enforcement.  I know because of decades of experience in trying to get data from law enforcement to bring sunshine to their activities.  My most recent long fight was with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on the Stingray.  If law enforcement does not have to tell the public on these kind of matters, they won't.

The behavior of the Hennepin County Sheriff on this issue and other government entities who may be doing the same, absolutely, sending a message to the public, you have no right to know!


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