LAPD Cries Foul After Private Citizen Flies Drone Over Police Station


Following an incident in which a drone enthusiast stood on a public sidewalk and piloted his camera-equipped drone above the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood station, the LAPD is attempting to find a legal basis for prohibiting the practice.

Last week, the LAPD consulted with city and county attorneys in an attempt to come up with a legal argument against operators of drones who would seek to gain a bird’s-eye view of their facilities. The topic came to a head for the department after the police confronted privacy advocate Daniel Saulmon, who films police officers on the job in order to underscore the “double standard” that protects bad cops from facing true accountability, as he operated his drone recently outside the Hollywood station.

Saulmon, who goes by the Internet handle “Tom Zebra,” published the drone footage to YouTube following the incident.

Saulmon gets arrested often in order to prove his point. In his YouTube commentary on the Hollywood video, he explains why he keeps going back for more:

Police violate our 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendment rights on the regular. Suddenly they want to talk about expectation of privacy? Oh, is that how it works? They want privacy, but want to give none?

LAPD Lt. Michael King’s remarks to the Los Angeles Times Friday set forth the department’s argument.

“What concerns us is that they are filming over private property and it’s gated – you’re looking at the layout of the police station, how we operate, personnel license plates,” he said. “It’s kind of like if it was your house, if they’re flying over your backyard you’d start asking questions about it.”

Saulmon insisted that argument constitutes a double standard – one that favors the state by denying the same freedoms to the citizen.

“They bring up the expectation of privacy, I’m not buying it,” he told the Times. “Suddenly they’re talking about how I’m trespassing on a public sidewalk. They do not have an expectation of privacy…if you want privacy, build a roof.”

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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