The Connecticut state legislature is considering a bill that, if passed, would make the state the first in the country to permit police to use drones armed with deadly weapons. The proposed legislation would also ban weaponized drones for non-police use.
Civil liberties advocates raised immediate concerns about whether lethal, airborne weaponry is appropriate for local policing, citing the risk of misuse. "We're not in warfare here," said David McGuire of the Connecticut ACLU. Drones foster "a level of separation that makes it almost video game like where [police are] detached from the actual situation," McGuire added, expressing concern that the psychological distance a drone creates would lower the bar for officers to engage in use of force.
The bill's supporters suggest the deadly drones would only be used in extreme, active-shooter situations, much like the original purpose of SWAT teams. Today, fewer than one in 10 SWAT raids serve that purpose.
North Dakota already permits armed drone use in police work, but the weapons must be non-lethal, like tear gas dispensers or stun guns. Maine and Virginia, by contrast, have banned police use of armed drones of any kind.