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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Berkeley Bans Police Drones, Taking Other Steps to Demilitarize Cops

Josh Paniagua

On Tuesday morning, I woke up to news of a Berkeley City Council meeting that would pass or reject a 2-year moratorium on the use of drones by the city happening later in the afternoon. By the evening, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that City Council had indeed passed a one-year ban on police drones and referred recommendations on remodeling community-police relations to the city manager.

During the 1-year suspension, City Council has pledged to work toward developing appropriate policies regarding city use of unmanned aircraft. While this may come as good news to some, vice chair of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission Robert Meola was a bit disappointed.

The commission had originally proposed a complete 2-year ban on all use of drones by the city in 2012, but rather got a one-year ban with exceptions; these exceptions being use of drones by the fire department and police in case of an emergency response situation. Surely, one could see why Meola feels that they “might as well have done nothing” about the drones. The idea behind the moratorium was to stop it completely until clear policies could be made in regards to their use, making the ban with exceptions virtually pointless.

Like Meola, councilmember Jesse Arreguin has vocalized his distaste for drones and has claimed that he is completely against their use due to privacy invasion. Nonetheless, a disappointed Arreguin voted in favor of the moratorium, stating that a “one-year moratorium is better than nothing.”

But, as stated earlier, the drone ban wasn’t the only thing passed along in Tuesday’s City Council meeting. A list of suggested action items regarding community-police relations to the City Manager to be further reviewed. These suggested amendments were originally assembled at previous council work sessions as a result of a public backlash after police violently responded to protesters in December.

The suggested amendments address quality of performance by the Drug Task Force and aim to demilitarize police tactics against the public.

Now, Berkeley residents are playing the waiting game, as it is now up to the City Manager to decide whether or not to move the items according to Arreguin.

Berkeley residents: want to keep city operated drones out of your neighborhood? Contact your city manager and voice your opinions at:

2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704

TEL: (510) 981-7000, TDD: (510) 981-6903, FAX: (510) 981-7099

Office Hours: Mon-Fri 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Email:

Domestic drone use by law enforcement has become a hot topic around the country. Contrary to the City Council’s seeming intentions, Berkeley’s local police — among those of many departments around the country — have been pushing for more drones. Americans worried about privacy and civil liberties have been opposing drone use by law enforcement all over the country.

How do you feel about law enforcement using drones?

Josh Paniagua writes for, where this first appeared. Tune-in to The Anti-Media radio show Monday-Friday @ 11pm EST, 8pm PST.

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