Protesters gathered outside LA's city hall Thursday morning, chanting "drone-free LAPD" to demand a halt to what they called an LAPD plan to use drones to spy on citizens.
Demonstrators from the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition pushed up against the City Hall entrance, trying to get a meeting with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti over two silent, camera-equipped drones the police department has recently acquired.
"What's going to happen when they have a drone that you can't ever hear is around, that can come into close radius?" protester Jamie Garcia said. "What are they going to do with this data? They haven't told us."
LAPD got the state-of-the-art Draganflyer X-6 drones for free from the Seattle Police Department in May. Civil rights activists on Thursday said Seattle residents' protests over drone testing in their city got their mayor involved to stop the drone use. They hope they can get Garcetti to do the same.
City Hall Protesters Demand "Drone Free LAPD"
LAPD spokesman Bruce Borihahn said a federal agency is storing the drones. He said he doesn't know the drones' capabilities.
"We're not even in possession of these things," Borihahn said.
Police will not use the drones in LA before a "lengthy approval process" by the civilian police commission, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and civil rights groups, Borihahn said.
Protesters said the Draganflyer website and videos posted by other police departments using the drones around the country show the devices are small, indetectable and much less expensive than the manned helicopters currently used by the LAPD.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California applauded the department's transparency about receiving the tool, but questioned whether its use outweighs the potential for invasion of privacy, Hector Villagra, the executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement in June.
Beck has promised the public the drones would only be used in tactical situations such as manhunts and standoffs.
LAPD Chief Discusses Drones Acquired From Seattle
"The Los Angeles Police Department will never, ever give up public confidence for a piece of police equipment," he said in June.