I-TEAM: Should police use drones for investigations? - WSMV Channel 4

I-TEAM: Should police use drones for investigations?

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Last week protesters rallied against a new drone command center coming to Battle Creek.

The protestors claim the machines are used to kill innocent people and spy on others.

Harry Arnold has turned his hobby into a business. He's a big fan of remote controlled unmanned flying machines known as drones. You may have heard of them being used by the military in combat. Arnold flies them over construction sites, taking video for real estate companies and developers.

"I knocked on the door of the trailer and just asked if I could take some pictures, and they said yeah, yeah, go ahead, go ahead," said Arnold.

Arnold landed a contract because developers liked his work. Arnold says he's certified, which is a requirement by the FAA for commercial work. But anyone can fly one of these for recreational purposes.

Sheriff Mike Bouchard in Oakland County used a drone last November in a deadly standoff. He's a big believer in this new high tech police tool.

"It was a trap, he was waiting for them, he opened fire on them, fully automatic weapons and ended up killing a police officer," said Bouchard.

The sheriff didn't want to put anyone else's life on the line. He sent in robots but the bad guy shot them up too. Bouchard finally sent a deputy to do some shopping.

As enticing as the drones may be, not all cops are jumping on the drone bandwagon. WNEM checked with Bay County Sheriff John Miller, and he's not interested. Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell says he has bigger fish to fry.

"Right now we're lucky if we can even afford to put a car on the road no less a drone up in the air," said Pickell.

Pickell describes a wild west right now on the use of drones. That means there's nothing to stop people from using a drone to spy on their neighbors and nothing to stop police from using them recklessly.

The feds allow drones with some restrictions. They can fly no higher than 400 feet and must be within the line of sight of the operator. At the state level, a new proposal currently in committee in the legislature in Lansing would require police to obtain a warrant or to prove imminent danger before deploying a drone.

Right now the battle over drones rages on in Lansing. Some lawmakers want to restrict how authorities use them and police chiefs are fighting back.

Copyright 2013 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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