Lets start off by introducing yourself and the work of Stop LAPD Spying Coalition?
My name is Hamid Khan and I am an organizer with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. The Coalition was started in the summer of 2011 by a group of individuals and organizations deeply concerned with the rapid expansion of the surveillance state and the incorporation of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency tactics and programs into local policing. The Coalition regularly engages in community education and outreach, grassroots organizing, coalition-building, and policy advocacy to expose the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) surveillance, spying, and infiltration programs. Our vision is the dismantling of government-sanctioned spying and intelligence gathering in all its multiple forms. The core principle of our work is intersectional movement building — a concerted effort to reach out
to diverse communities and organizations, and build deep understanding and solidarity around these issues.
You’ve released a Drone report titled, “The Drone Report: Drone Free LAPD/Drone LA”, can you tell us why Stop LAPD Spying decided to do this report?
It’s called The Drone Report. In May 2014 the Los Angeles Police Department received two Draganflyer X6 Drones from the Seattle Police Department. In July 2014 the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition along with partner grass root organizations launched the Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! campaign. The drone report is part of the campaign and examines the rise of drones and the dangers and impact of their expansion into tactical operations of domestic law enforcement. With over a year in the making and led by diverse community participation, the report is based upon extensive research and analysis, over 200 surveys, several focus groups, numerous interviews, and community outreach events including townhalls. In addition to the report over 3000 people have signed a petition to the Mayor, the City Council and the LA Police Commission rejecting the use of Drones by LAPD.
How did you go about making this report?
This report is informed by a variety of findings and evidence obtained through independent and community-based research. It has been crafted collectively by the History and Research Working Group of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition–made up of diverse individuals, community groups, and advocacy groups, throughout Los Angeles. The report discusses the history of drone use in the United States and abroad and investigates the burgeoning industrial complex accompanying the proliferation of drones globally, and examines the company profiting from manufacturing LAPD’s latest gadgets. The report also looks at the cost of drones. Furthermore, it looks at LAPD’s history of breaking the community’s trust, and their current facade of community input, manipulated to justify their practices. Highlighted in this report is LAPD’s massive architecture of surveillance and militarization, and how the DraganFlyer X6 Drones fit into this context. The psychological impact of drones on people targeted overseas is also detailed as well as LAPD’s history of mission creep and dishonesty. Lastly, the report presents community feedback through survey data and focus group results and concludes with what we feel is the appropriate call to action.
What’s the history behind the use of drones by law enforcement agencies?
Drones have been a surveillance tool of choice for the US military since the 1990’s. But as always it is only a matter of time when War Abroad becomes War at Home. The War on Terror unleashed battle tested technology and equipment to become an integral part of monitoring and policing people all across the U.S. The use of drones for domestic surveillance going back to 2006 was formally acknowledged by the FBI. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency has been using drones since 2007, and a December 2014 audit of CBP Drone program by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General Office revealed the use of CBP Predator Drones for domestic policing and surveillance by local law enforcement agencies. Several law enforcement agencies in the United States are using drones and many are in the process of acquiring drones. The state of North Dakota was the first state to pass legislation in August 2015 to equip police drones with non-lethal weapons including tasers, rubber bullets and tear gas. The LAPD Draganflyer X6 Drones come equipped with high-powered video and still cameras, thermal forward looking infra-red and dusk/dawn cameras, and remote control tilt, zoom and shutter capacity. This gives the LAPD tremendous capacity to peek, probe, and spy into our most private spaces. The addition of these Draganflyer X6 Drones to LAPD’s Architecture of Surveillance complete the full spectrum of covert and overt information gathering, storing, and sharing.
5) What recommendations are emerging from the report?
The Drone Report is informed by several factors such as the history of drones, the psychological impact of drones, the use of drones to conduct surveillance and spying, the use of drones to kill or maim people, corporate profit making, and most importantly deep concerns of the community about mission creep, rampant militarization of police, and the distrust of police. Taking all these factor into account the report calls for a total rejection of the use of drones by law enforcement. No policy, no guidelines, no drones!
6) Where can people download the report? The report can be downloaded at here
Hamid Khan is the Campaign Coordinator for Stop LAPD Syping Coalition, a MAG-Net achnor organization.