Don't Tase Me, Brobot - North Dakota Makes it Legal to Weaponize Drones

in #news3 years ago

No, you didn't misread that. The state legislature of North Dakota has just passed a bill that makes it legal to weaponize drones with non-lethal weapons. This means that, at least in one state of the Union right now, it's perfectly legal to have the cops fly a drone up to you, fill your face with pepper spray, shoot you with a taser, or pound you with rubber bullets.

image from Wikimedia Commons

1984? No, 2016.

Seems like an Orwellian nightmare come to life, doesn't it? Well this is the world we're living in now. The militarization of the police in the United States continues apace and unabated, unconcerned with concepts such as "excessive force." You wouldn't think that 1984 would end up being used as an instruction manual, but there it is in black and white:

Prohibited use.

  1. A law enforcement agency may not authorize the use of, including granting a permit to use, an
    unmanned aerial vehicle armed with any lethal weapons.

That's a direct quote from Enrolled House Bill 1328 of the North Dakota Assembly. In other words, it's state law. Feel free to gear up your drones with whatever "non-lethal" weapons you like. No matter that so-called non-lethal weapons have resulted in the deaths of plenty of people. Non-lethal, my electrocuted ass.

Best-Laid Plans

The worst part about this? The original bill as it was written was designed to limit the use of drones for surveillance and intelligence-gathering. When it was originally submitted, Section 5.1 originally read:

A state agency may not authorize the use of, including granting a permit
to use, an unmanned aircraft armed with any lethal or nonlethal weapons, including
firearms, pepper spray, bean bag guns, mace, and sound - based weapons.

Not only that, but the original intent of the bill, according to its sponsor Bill Becker, was to ensure that drones couldn't be used for surveillance without a warrant. The whole idea was to limit the use of drones, not make them more deadly. Becker has been quoted (by a myriad of news outlets) that:

“In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized. Period.”

Still, Becker voted for the bill because he felt the protections put in place by requiring warrants were important enough to not let it die on the floor of the North Dakota Assembly.

image from Wikimedia Commons

Lobbyists Strike Again

So who pushed through these changes? I'll give you three guesses, and the first two don't count: it was the North Dakota police lobby. Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was given permission to redline the offending clause in the bill, making it legal to get doused with pepper spray or shot with a beanbag mounted on a police drone.

North Dakota is, of course, one of a handful of states involved in the FAA pilot program that authorizes police forces to experiment with drone use. Unsurprisingly, there are several drone manufacturers that call the state home - and they've made some lucrative partnerships with police departments across the state.

So where does that leave private citizens not wanting to be electrocuted in the ass while minding their own goddamn business? Worse yet, what's going to happen at the North Dakota Pipeline protests now that this law is on the books? Of course, there are news outfits already saying that there's no way police would ever begin mounting Tasers on their drones, but these same news outlets were saying how Donald Trump would never end up the Republican presidential candidate, too. Excuse me if I don't trust mainstream media outlets any more.

Also, going to North Dakota any time soon is now off my bucket list.

image from Wikimedia Commons