LAPD Cries Foul After Private Citizen Flies Drone Over Police Station
August 5, 2014 by Ben Bullard
Following an incident in which a drone enthusiast stood on a public sidewalk and piloted his camera-equipped drone above the Los Angeles Police Departmentâ€™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 birdâ€™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 â€śdouble standardâ€ť 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 â€śTom Zebra,â€ť 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 Kingâ€™s remarks to the Los Angeles Times Friday set forth the departmentâ€™s argument.
â€śWhat concerns us is that they are filming over private property and itâ€™s gated â€“ youâ€™re looking at the layout of the police station, how we operate, personnel license plates,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s kind of like if it was your house, if theyâ€™re flying over your backyard youâ€™d start asking questions about it.â€ť
Saulmon insisted that argument constitutes a double standard â€“ one that favors the state by denying the same freedoms to the citizen.
â€śThey bring up the expectation of privacy, Iâ€™m not buying it,â€ť he told the Times. â€śSuddenly theyâ€™re talking about how Iâ€™m trespassing on a public sidewalk. They do not have an expectation of privacyâ€¦if you want privacy, build a roof.â€ť