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January 14, 2015
The departments say they will be used for hostage situations, active shooters, search and rescue operations, and disaster response. Captain Tom Madigan, a captain at the Alameda County Sheriff’s office, claimed
“Through our research we learned that a small, unmanned aircraft can support first responders in situations which would benefit from having an aerial perspective, and that by having that it could expose dangers that could otherwise not be seen.”
It is unclear what specific emergency situations Madigan is referring to, but instances of police abuse and misconduct are overwhelmingly common. For example, last month there were multiple cases of aggressive police overreach during police brutality protests. In a protest that marched from Berkeley to Oakland, two undercover California Highway Patrol officers were revealed by protesters and one drew a gun on the crowd. Oakland also has a history of police abuse.
In San Jose, there are similar long-standing injustices. In 1999, at least 100 complaints were filed with the NAACP against excessive brutality and racism by the police in one month. In 2014, the problem of harassment continued. One San Jose officer was recently cleared of any wrongdoing after he tweeted to protesters:
“Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter… By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”
Instances like these make it difficult to trust police departments with unmanned drones, especially after California Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of a bill that would have required law enforcement to obtain warrants before spying.
Joe Simitan, a supervisor in Santa Clara County (where San Jose is located), echoed similar skeptical sentiments:
“’Trust us’ isn’t going to work…For any agency or department of the government at any level to simply say ’trust us, we can be counted on not to abuse the technology’ – that’s just not going to fly.”
Nevertheless, drones in Alameda and Santa Clara were purchased last year. In the face of opposition, Alameda County spent $97,000 on two in December. The news broke just days before the Berkeley protests were heating up, and Sheriff Greg Ahern drew sharp criticisms of secrecy and privacy violations. He denied the validity of such concerns. San Jose spent $7,000 on one drone in January 2014. All three were bought without input from the communities using funds from Homeland Security.
In San Jose, city council approval is required before police can move forward. Several meetings on the topics have already been held and all three cities will need FAA approval before flying drones (San Jose police challenged this last year). All three are steadfast in their desire to incorporate their use.
In spite of the appearance of authorities attaining consent, however, many are hesitant to accept police drones. Policy Director of Technology and Civil Liberties at the ACLU Northern California, Nicole Ozer, said
“Drones are very small and they’re very invasive. They could be monitoring, recording and retaining vast amounts of information on innocent activities.”
80 law enforcement agencies were using drones in 2013, but police comprised only 5% of all drone applications submitted in 2013. 37% were submitted by “academia” with 31% by the Department of Defense. CNN recently obtained FAA permission to use drones, as well.
While police can say the drones will not be misused, the government’s track record is not to be trusted. The Patriot Act was supposed to keep people safe from terrorism, but it is now public knowledge that it is used far more commonly for drug arrests. NSA surveillance is also supposed to keep people safe, but the agency passes information on to the IRS, DEA, and local police to spy on Americans for non-terrorism “offenses.”
It is “coincidental” that police are moving to use drones as dissent against law enforcement grows nationally as well as in the Bay Area. Jesse Arreguin, a Berkeley city council member who represents the area where UC Berkeley is located, said
“Berkeley and the Bay Area have a long history of political discussion, protests and debate, and there’s
a real concern around the use of these drones under those circumstances, and the broader privacy issues.”
Given the public outcry, there is at least some hope the drone programs will be deterred.
A detainee on Manus Island is shown being loaded into the back of a vehicle after falling ill in this picture supplied to Guardian Australia. Photograph: Supplied
More than 100 asylum seekers are being treated for dehydration in makeshift medical centre, but minister for immigration says ‘they will never be settled in Australia’ despite protests
Ben Doherty and Helen Davidson
Protests continue on Manus Island, with detainees vowing not to give up their protest, and the government equally unbowed they must be resettled in PNG.
Some men in the detention centre have been refusing food and water since Tuesday and are dangerously unwell.
International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) staff on the island have converted the staff mess hall into an overflow emergency medical centre.
More than 100 men from Mike compound, where the hunger strike started on Tuesday, are now under medical care, most from severe dehydration.
Two men who swallowed razor blades, and four who drank detergent, are also in medical care.
In the Delta and Oscar compounds, where the protests have spread and the tension has been greatest, men not on hunger strike spent the night clapping and cheering and shouting “What do we want? Freedom?”.
Some men have spent 18 months in detention on Manus and have asked to be handed over to the care of the United Nations. Others still want to be moved to Australia, where their families live.
Video seen by Guardian Australian shows PNG riot police walking between the Delta and Oscar compounds.
Reports that riot police entered Delta and clashed with detainees in an effort to force them back into their rooms, remain unconfirmed.
Guardian Australia has obtained video footage that shows boisterous, but peaceful protests in the camp.
Detainees say they will not yield.
Manus Island unrest
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PNG security forces enter Delta block on Friday where there were unconfirmed reports of fighting. Photograph: Supplied
They are protesting against the length of their detention, the conditions under which they are being held, and against the threat of being forcibly sent to live in the PNG community, where they fear they will be attacked.
Less than a year ago, Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati was murdered during riots in the centre, allegedly by PNG nationals who invaded the centre and attacked detainees.
The detainees wrote in a letter to the Australian government on Friday: “some of us are about to die, but will still continue our way [protest] and we will never change our decision”.
“Dear Mr Minister, PNG is not safe place for us and if we are supposed to die there, we will die here in the centre. Our message today is very clear to the immigration of Australia, our decision will never change. Hand us over to the UN.”
But immigration minister Peter Dutton said the government will not change its policy.
“Whilst there has been a change of minister, the absolute resolve of me as the new minister and of the government is to make sure that for those transferees, they will never arrive in Australia. They will never be settled in Australia.”
A PNG government spokesman told Guardian Australia no police had entered the detention centre but that amid the heightened tensions “security had gone in with workers”.
He had not seen the images from Manus Island, but said a senior person from there had conveyed the information.
“It wasn’t extraordinary but of course with the tension there as we know, I think it was just extra precautions.”
He said he had seen reports of locals going in with police “but it was nothing like that”.