Berkeley City Council Approves Moratorium on Police Drones

In a 7 to 1 vote Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council approved a one-year moratorium on the use of drones by the city’s police department.

The plan was proposed by the city’s Peace and Justice Commission due to various freedom and privacy concerns. The Commission had initially called for an all-out ban, but the issue was referred back to the commission for further review. A permanent ban is still on the table, pending an ongoing study by the city.

"Police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from lawmakers,” Tuesday’s resolution reads. There are also concerns about safety, as the unmanned vehicles are not immune to collisions and other catastrophic failures.

Police departments have defended the use of drones for surveillance, as well as search and rescue purposes. But many people remain unconvinced that the potential benefits outweigh the risks. During a town hall meeting on the issue in 2013, for instance, only two of the 20 speakers said they would support the use of drone technology in emergency situations.

Tuesday’s resolution does not apply to fire department disaster response.

Read more about the moratorium here