Florida committee passes ban on law enforcement drones

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A Florida bill banning the use of drones by law enforcement won committee approval Wednesday.

The bill must get through three more committees before it can get a floor vote. Police urged lawmakers to add an exception for crowd control to the existing exceptions for cases related to terrorism, surveillance with a warrant or missing children, but the committee denied the request.

The Community Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bill, but several committee members urged Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican sponsoring the bill, to consider loosening some of its restrictions, Tampa Bay Online reports.

“We have a responsibility to protect people’s liberty, but I think we have also a responsibility to protect people’s lives,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, Clearwater Republican.

Mr. Negron rejected the request, saying he would vote against his own bill if a crowd control exception is added.

“We know something about crowds,” he said. “We had a crowd back in the 1700s. It was called the Boston Tea Party. Can you imagine if King George had sent a drone to hover over the Boston Tea Party to see what the American patriots were up to?”

The bill would completely prohibit local authorities from surveillance of residents unless they obtained a search warrant from a judge. It also allows drone searches for escaped fugitives and for emergencies such as an imminent threat to life or property, Tampa Bay Online reports.

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