Drones & AI Pose Police Policy Choices

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Technology is changing policing in ways that can help save lives, but also raise concerns about protecting people’s rights.

So agreed two retired cops who continue to help steer the conversation about the future of their profession.

The two ex-cops — retired State Trooper James Scott and former Assistant New Haven Police Chief John Velleca — teach criminal justice at Albertus Magnus College. They tackled questions about the future of policing during a joint appearance on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program.

They agreed that technology is changing policing. Citizens spend more time behind computers than out on the street. Drug dealers now set up deals online. AI and other tech advances, from facial recognition to drones, enable officers to track more potential crimes from a distance.

“We have a unique opportunity to make some changes,” especially with calls to increase police accountability, Scott said.

“We’re at the brink of another era of policing,” agreed Velleca.

The two agreed with the creation of community crisis intervention teams to handle many nonviolent calls. They agreed about the need to hold cops more accountable for misconduct, to train officers to deescalate rather than escalate conflicts, to judge the success of policing based on interacting positively with the public rather than piling up quality-of-life arrests that mire people in debt and incarceration.

Read more: New Report Finds Problems with FAA Unmanned Traffic Management Effort

They disagreed about the use of drones, which police departments nationwide have embraced. A proposal to use drones to track dirt-bike riders in New Haven was shelved amid community opposition.

Scott advocated using drones as an alternative to high-speed chases.

“If you had a drone up in the air, it would be much easier to find a car you might be looking for,” rather than risking people’s lives with a pursuit, he argued.

Velleca argued that potential misuse and threats to privacy outweigh the benefits of easier arrests.

“I’m not a proponent of drones,” he said. “They work all too well. The capabilities are so vast; I don’t know how you’ll be able to rein them in. I don’t believe they have a place in law enforcement. … I don’t want to open the door.”

Similarly, while drones might catch drug dealers in the act on a street corner, it would be hard to enforce policies that limit what else cops could use that surveillance for, Velleca argued. “We have trouble enforcing” already existing policies restraining police overreach.

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Source: PAUL BASS

Photo credit: Press



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