The militarization of law enforcement continues at an alarming pace. The latest development is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by police in Houston. And it could even be armed. But don’t worry, they promise to use their new toy only for good:
A Houston area law enforcement agency is prepared to launch an unmanned drone that could someday carry weapons, Local 2 Investigates reported Friday.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Conroe paid $300,000 in federal homeland security grant money and Friday it received the ShadowHawk unmanned helicopter made by Vanguard Defense Industries of Spring.
A laptop computer is used to control the 50-pound unmanned chopper, and a game-like console is used to aim and zoom a powerful camera and infrared heat-seeking device mounted on the front.
“To be in on the ground floor of this is pretty exciting for us here in Montgomery County,” Sheriff Tommy Gage said.
He said the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) could be used in hunting criminals who are running from police or assessing a scene where SWAT team officers are facing an active shooter.
Gage said it will also be deployed for criminal investigations such as drug shipments.
“We’re not going to use it to be invading somebody’s privacy. It’ll be used for situations we have with criminals,” Gage said.
It will no doubt be useful in legitimate criminal investigations. But it will also almost certainly be abused. Like SWAT teams with their armored vehicles and automatic weapons, when the police have this kind of advanced toy they have to use it in order to justify having it. That’s why we see SWAT teams being used all the time to serve warrants for non-violent crimes.
Here’s one way I can almost guarantee it will be used: The infrared scanner will likely be used to look for grow lamps in homes that can be used to grow marijuana. The Supreme Court has ruled that the police can’t use such scanners without a warrant, but that hasn’t stopped police agencies from doing so anyway. There was one famous case in Texas where a former cop rented a house, put nothing in it but grow lamps and a small Christmas tree — and cameras in each room. In less than 24 hours, the police came crashing into the place with weapons drawn.
Here’s how this works. The police illegally use infrared cameras to spot the grow lamps and presume they’re being used to grow marijuana. But because of the Supreme Court ruling, they can’t use that evidence to get a warrant. So they grab one of their favorite informants, give them money or plant drugs on them so they can use that as leverage and get them to sign an affidavit saying they bought drugs at that house. Then they use the affidavit to get a warrant. Welcome to the police state.
Here’s the video of that case in Texas: