Proposal seeks to limit police drones in Tennessee - WSMV Channel 4

Proposal seeks to limit police drones in Tennessee

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There has been a lot of talk on the national stage about drones - the unmanned vehicles that can be used in the air, water or on the ground - but how much leeway should local law enforcement have in using them?

Tennessee lawmakers were asking that Wednesday on Capitol Hill as they considered an amendment to restrict drones.

Some want to limit how police can use drones, and a bill sponsored by State Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, called the "Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act," would do just that.

"Drones are a very, very useful tool. I, as a Marine, got the opportunity to operate drones, so I know how effective they can be against the bad guys, but they can also be effective against the good guys," said Van Huss, who is in the Marine Corps Reserves and has experience piloting drones.

Lawmakers agree that police should be required to get permission from a judge before using a drone, just as they would for a search warrant or a wire tap.

"I want some judge to say, 'Yes, this person's privacy deserves to be invaded,'" said State Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah.

But some question whether this bill would actually do that. Van Huss said the bill would prohibit law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather evidence except in certain cases, such as to counter a terrorist attack, if a judge signs a search warrant authorizing the drone or if police believe there is imminent danger to life.

"There's general support, I feel, for your concept and your bill. I think everybody thinks there's some fine tuning that needs to be done," said State Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville.

For now, the House civil affairs subcommittee has pushed a vote on the proposal to next week.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it is keeping a close eye on the proposal to make sure the government isn't snooping on people for no good reason.

"It's to require that the concept of privacy is observed," said Joe Sweat, with the Tennessee ACLU.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said the agency doesn't own any drones but has used them under contract two times to look for missing people.

The Metro Nashville Police Department police owns drones but said it hasn't yet started to use them because officials are still developing policies for them.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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