Morning Report: Who Gets to View Police Drone Footage?

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Morning Report: Who Gets to View Police Drone Footage?

Kyle Roberts, a Chula Vista Police drone pilot officer, explains how the department uses drones to prevent and solve crimes. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Chula Vista has become a global consultant when it comes to using drones as first responders and police leaders there pride themselves on being open and transparent. They give regular tours and advice to others and release information about their flight paths online. 

But the footage captured by drone cameras is off limits to the public. A new lawsuit is seeking to change that. 

The legal case, filed by the newspaper La Prensa and attorney Cory Briggs, could set a legal precedent and alter the way other cities respond to drone footage requests, depending on how it’s resolved and how high it goes in the courts. 

If the newspaper is successful, the cameras attached to drones will effectively belong to everyone, not just police — which raises another question and puts the city in a tricky position. 

“Residents unconnected to the crime or service call that a drone was launched to respond to could be captured in the footage, too, for anyone who requests it to view,” writes Sofía Mejías Pascoe in a new story. 

She considered the tensions inherent in the lawsuit and spoke to both legal and privacy experts, one of whom said: “The fact that releasing the footage could risk the privacy of Chula Vista residents means that their privacy has already been violated.”

Chula Vista treats drone footage much like body camera footage and argues that drone footage is exempt from disclosure because it’s part of an investigation. But public records attorneys disagree. 

Boat Incident Is Just the Latest Dangerous Human Smuggling Incident

NBC 7 reports that the County Medical Examiner’s Office has released the names of the three people who died Sunday after a “severely overcrowded” boat capsized in the waters off Point Loma. U.S. Custom and Border Protection officials said the vessel was being used to traffick undocumented migrants and at least 32 people were on board. 

The agency said it’s seen an increase in the number of illegal crossings at sea and would be ramping up patrols this weekend. The captain, a U.S. citizen, was in custody Tuesday, authorities told City News Service. 

AP reports that it was the third incident in only two months demonstrating how smugglers put migrants at extraordinary peril for profits, whether by car, on foot or at sea. In March, a tractor-trailer slammed into an SUV in Imperial County, and two young children were dropped from a border wall in New Mexico and left alone. 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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