The nation’s largest police force unveiled a newly acquired fleet of drones as part of a program to help officers in an array of different settings.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) said Tuesday the drones would be used for search and rescue missions, collision and crime scene documentation, evidence searching, monitoring large crowds at events and hostage situations.
Some groups, however, have said the police’s use of drones would impede the privacy of New Yorkers.
“The NYPD’s drone policy places no meaningful restrictions on police deployment of drones in New York City and opens the door to the police department building a permanent archive of drone footage of political activity and intimate private behavior visible only from the sky,” New York Civil Liberties Union associate legal director Christopher Dunn said in a statement.
The NYPD tried to assure the public the drones would not be used for surveillance purposes and demonstrated how they would be put into use in real life situations.
“Let me be clear. NYPD drones will not be used for warrantless surveillances,” Department Chief Terence Monahan told reporters.
Yet in their statement, the NYPD did not list surveillance as an unacceptable use.
There are concerns the drones could be used to spy on Muslim communities in New York, something the department has been caught doing.
In 2016, the NYPD Inspector General released a report that said 95 percent of intelligence investigations targeted Muslim communities. The U.S.’s largest Muslim civil rights group, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said drones will only make things worse.
“It’s wrong of the NYPD to take to the skies before tackling ground-level privacy concerns,” CAIR-NY Legal Director Albert Fox Cahn said in a statement. “The benefits of the drones are hazy, but the cost to New Yorkers’ privacy is crystal clear. The NYPD has a history of targeting Muslim New Yorkers.”