Slog

Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Friday, October 26, 2012

Last Night's Police Drone "Demonstration" Turned Into Another Kind of Demonstration

Posted by on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 at 10:17 AM

The drone.
  • ES
  • The drone.

This story was already mentioned in today's Morning News, but a few more details on last night's clusterfuck of a community forum on the drones ("unmanned aerial vehicles") that the SPD would like to use to assist its policing.

Seattle police officers—including public spokespersons and members of its CBRNE (chemical/biological/radiological/nuclear/explosive) and Homeland Security bureaus—showed up to the Garfield Community Center with one drone and a PowerPoint presentation. They were ready for some skepticism and maybe a little hostility, but seemed taken aback by the explosion of bile that dominated last night's forum.

Activists shouted down officers and generally disrupted the event. Some citizens who showed up wanting a discussion seemed irritated by the circus, but I suspect that was all part of the plan—rather than let the forum happen quietly, with a quiet Q&A that might be ignored, activists hoped to create maximum disruption for the TV cameras and journalists like me, who would be more likely to report on it, which would create a sense of great community opposition to the drones. The most popular chant of the night: "No drones! No drones!"

The exasperation.
  • ES
  • The exasperation.

Even though the disruption was a tactic (in which a few people hollered about Hurricane Katrina and European fascism), some of the shouted questions were pointed and worth answering. As one man kept yelling: "We don't trust you with the weapons you do have." (The drones aren't technically a weapon yet, but even at this early moment in the drone debate, some police chiefs are already talking about arming them with tear gas and rubber bullets.)

One woman asked, during a moment of relative quiet, whether the SPD's use of drones were a foregone conclusion or "do we get to choose?" Another man asked/shouted: "My question is simple. What's the return policy for the drones?"

The guiding sentiment behind the questions seemed to be that at a time of tension between SPD and Seattle citizens, and the long shadow of the Department of Justice report that accuses the SPD of systematic problems and abuses of authority, why should this department be leading the country in the legally shaky world of drone-based law enforcement? I had a chance to ask Lt. Greg Sackman, who is the lead on the drone project, in a relatively quiet corner during the forum.

"Nobody wants to be spied on, not even myself," Lt. Sackman said. He added that restrictions on drone use are basically nonexistent for hobbysits and that law-enforcement was trying to come up with appropriate guidelines—crime-scene photography, accident-scene photography, and other cases where a drone could record information more cheaply and safely than deploying human officers.

"Seattle is at the forefront," he said. "A lot of other cities are behind us and waiting to see what happens—we want to do it right." As for the disruption at the forum? "I don't mind this," he said, gesturing around the noisy room. "People have concerns and we have to address them. And we have to do a better job of explaining what these things can and can't do. We have to earn people's trust."

But, he added, law enforcement use of drones is probably a foregone conclusion. "It's coming," he said. "It's just a matter of time."

 

Comments (37) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Cato the Younger Younger 1
I wouldn't trust the SPD with drones. I don't trust them with their guns either but what can you do?

I'm sure once they implement the drones we will be hearing about the police abusing them within a few months.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on October 26, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Report this
2
Sounds like the torch wielding mob in Frankenstein. In a bad way.
Posted by GermanSausage on October 26, 2012 at 10:28 AM · Report this
3
Typo: "...nonexistent for hobbysits..."
Posted by Ben on October 26, 2012 at 10:28 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 4
Boeing makes a drone that shuts down electronics in a targeted area already.

Sadly, Anonymous and Wikileaks made that public.

Just because you don't think drones can't harm doesn't mean that is a true statement.

Welcome to Soviet Amerika, Comrade!

p.s. my guillotine and pitchfork franchises are going gangbusters. Coming to your city soon!
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on October 26, 2012 at 10:38 AM · Report this
Cornichon 5
Sometime today or tomorrow, SPD or its supporters will point out that a drone hovering at the intersection of First & Bell could have / would have prevented the fatal stabbing in front of Tia Lou's.
Posted by Cornichon http://cornichon.org on October 26, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Report this
Last of the Time Lords 6
Just remember, if you aren't doing anything wrong you have nothing at all to worry about. Not a thing in the world to be concerned with. The drone is your friend, as long as you support the status quo and never do anything to threaten that status quo.

I can't wait until the give away little plush versions of drones to give to children at Christmas time. "Look Mommy! I have my own little drone I can cuddle with at night!!"
Posted by Last of the Time Lords on October 26, 2012 at 10:49 AM · Report this
geoff teardrop 7
slingshots
Posted by geoff teardrop http://twitter.com/wipess on October 26, 2012 at 10:55 AM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 9
The question I have is "Are they calibrated to detect perps who carry an inordinate amount of Mexican piss, and can therefore guide the SPD to stomp said piss out of the offenders?"
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on October 26, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 10
"We have to earn people's trust."

"It's coming,...It's just a matter of time."

One of these statements is clearly not true.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on October 26, 2012 at 11:12 AM · Report this
11
Given the fragility of drones and the staggering array of weaponry in the hands of private paranoid citizens, I see problems. When I lived near Houston, people shot at the Goodyear Blimp.
Posted by tiktok on October 26, 2012 at 11:13 AM · Report this
12
Obviously, the important question is this: did you buy a copy of the Revolutionary Worker newspaper?
Posted by hmmmmm on October 26, 2012 at 11:19 AM · Report this
13
I'm not a police basher but, frankly (my one and only one Newty moment), I haven't met a cop in the last thirty years I'd trust with any type of drone.

Yes they are coming, as the police fellow stated, but that's part of the plan to replace and privatize the police across the country.

Boeing's subsidaries, Jeppesen (extreme rendition airlines) and Narus, Internet master spyware tech.

No thanks.....
Posted by sgt_doom on October 26, 2012 at 11:23 AM · Report this
14
If anyone's curious about the specs of the drone itself, this looks like a Draganflyer X6: http://www.draganfly.com/uav-helicopter/…
Posted by Henry on October 26, 2012 at 11:31 AM · Report this
Original Andrew 15
Next they'll launch drone missiles at houses in the CD 'cause some kid might have a dime bag.
Posted by Original Andrew on October 26, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 16
Six rotors? That seems kinda over-engineered. I wonder if that will make it harder or easier to bring down with a shotgun...
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on October 26, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Report this
17
I'm wondering how much outrage there would be if these were deployed by the governments of Iran or China.
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on October 26, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Report this
18
We've got McGinn saying we can't afford the things DOJ wants Seattle to do to reduce unconstitutional levels of violence and discrimination, but we can afford to be on the cutting edge of technology? In flush times this might make sense. But now?
Posted by retrogrouch on October 26, 2012 at 11:39 AM · Report this
Fnarf 20
My objection is not so much that I don't trust the police with drones but that I think they're a spectacular waste of money that could be much better spent on officers on the streets. The police are naturally attracted to fancy new tech gear, but I see no evidence that these things have any real crime-fighting capability at all. And with the bozos at the controls, I think there's a good chance that the crime-scene photography they're going to be taking is of the crime of accidentally steering one of these things into grandma's chest cavity.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on October 26, 2012 at 12:06 PM · Report this
21
@16 Apparently the 3 offset rotors serve to maximize thrust, minimize sound output and provide for torque compensation. For something that costs $15-25K depending on accessories I would say that's acceptable amount of engineering. Since the main purpose of this platform is aerial photography (and really all it's capable of given the payload numbers), it will most likely be hovering motionless in the air while the operator focuses on taking pictures and should be fairly easy to dispatch with any accurate projectile weapon.
Posted by Henry on October 26, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
pfffter 22
Giving the SPD drones is like handing a multiple DUI offender the keys to your new car.
Posted by pfffter on October 26, 2012 at 12:23 PM · Report this
wilbur@work 23
a remote control helicopter over Lt. Sackface's house carrying a camera with a live feed posted to Slog should answer the question re: his opinion of the presumption of privacy.
Posted by wilbur@work on October 26, 2012 at 12:36 PM · Report this
24
@20 That's pretty much what I think. The police will be using unmanned drones soon enough. No need to rush the process.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on October 26, 2012 at 12:37 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 25
@21 also, shotguns don't have that much range.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on October 26, 2012 at 12:39 PM · Report this
26
@25 Depends on the shotgun, the type of shot/slug used and how high the copter is hovering. A rifled barrel with a sabot slug could be good for 200+ yards while No. 6 shot would get you 100-150, depending on angle of trajectory. Also those are the ranges at which they'd still be lethal to an animal/human; plastic/fiberglass would need much less energy transfer to be "fatal". If your aim was good enough a slingshot would bring one of these down.
Posted by Henry on October 26, 2012 at 12:56 PM · Report this
Fnarf 27
@26, yeah, and there are no repercussions for discharging a firearm within city limits. Like being arrested and charged with discharging a firearm within city limits. Or, even better, having your sabot slug fall back to earth in the region of your windshield, or your skull.

But by all means, don't let me interrupt your fascinating paranoid-loon chat with the great Will in Seattle. As you were.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on October 26, 2012 at 1:04 PM · Report this
meanie 28
@27 that's true, it would be far safer to just run over the operator with your car while texting. That's only a traffic citation after all.
Posted by meanie http://www.spicealley.net on October 26, 2012 at 1:17 PM · Report this
Kinison 29
I would be worried if these things could hoover over an area for hours on end, but they dont and cant. Payload is 1.5lbs, good enough to fit for a higher capacity battery so you can spend maybe 40 minutes in the air.
Posted by Kinison http://www.holgatehawks.com on October 26, 2012 at 3:25 PM · Report this
30
@ 29. The SPD's model can apparently only stay in the air for 10 minutes at a time. But the UAV industry is growing, the technology is improving, and those 10-minute models will probably look laughably archaic in 3, 2, 1...
Posted by Brendan Kiley on October 26, 2012 at 4:17 PM · Report this
31
Anybody else remember that show from about 10 years ago, 'Dark Angel?' Set in Seattle and I seem to remember security drones flying round.
Posted by nikolai on October 26, 2012 at 8:34 PM · Report this
32
@20

While drones would be expensive as an addition to the existing police apparatus, they'd be a hell of a lot cheaper than manned helicopters, which they would almost certainly replace entirely in the medium term.

Also, I'll be willing to listen to these protesters when they start putting just as much passion into forcing helicopters out of the SPD as they're currently expending on unmanned aircraft that haven't been approved or purchased yet, let alone deployed.
Posted by robotslave on October 26, 2012 at 9:55 PM · Report this
33
Lead on the drone project, Lt. Greg W. Sackman #6052, supervised the brutal 2005 beating of Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes. Sam Pailca, then-director of the OPA, later found that Sackman knew at the time of the beating that the man had done nothing wrong. We're supposed to trust this monster with flying surveillance cameras which may later carry weapons?

I spoke with Sackman after the meeting Thursday. He seemed like a nice enough guy, and he seemed interested in using these drones to, say, enter a dangerous situation so his colleagues would not need to tip-toe in wearing blast suits. I had no idea at the time that he had a history of participation in violent civil liberties abuses.
Posted by Phil M http://twitter.com/pmocek on October 27, 2012 at 10:45 AM · Report this
34
From ""Police chief exonerated officers in vio…," by Mike Carter and Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times, June 26, 3007 (emphasis added):


Barnes and a group of friends were leaving the War Room, a bar on Capitol Hill, shortly after midnight on April 13, 2005. Outside was Seattle Police Sgt. Greg Sackman, who was on patrol there. A bouncer said he seemed "agitated" and had positioned himself directly in front of the door so people would have to walk around him as they left.

The bouncer, Tim Rhodes, later said one of Alley-Barnes' friends apparently threw a piece of paper or straw into the gutter. When the officer pointed it out to him, the friend picked it up and apologized, Rhodes said in a court deposition.

Sackman decided to detain the man, according to police reports and other court documents. It was then that Alley-Barnes went up to Sackman and complained that he was harassing his friend because the friend was black, according to several witnesses.

Sackman, in his report, said he felt threatened and called for "fast backup," meaning all officers in the area were to respond to an officer in trouble.

During this dispatch, Alley-Barnes can be heard in the background discussing "the civil rights of colored people," according to dispatch tapes and court documents.

The first officer to arrive was Brian Hunt. Sackman told Hunt to arrest Alley-Barnes, even though Alley-Barnes was walking away, Hunt later testified.

Sam Pailca, then-director of the OPA, concluded in her report that Sackman knew that Alley-Barnes had "made no threatening, hostile or aggressive moves." Pailca stated she "doubted [Alley-Barnes'] verbal challenges amounted to obstruction."

Pailca later explained in a deposition that citizens can misunderstand officer safety issues. "So officers may perceive a risk whereas many average citizens may not and certainly don't see what they're doing as interfering," she said.

Hunt grabbed Alley-Barnes in what the officer described as a wrestling maneuver called a "groin pick," where he hoisted the man by his scrotum onto the hood of a police car. Alley-Barnes later said he struggled because he was in pain. Other officers arrived, including Kevin Jones, who later said he hit Alley-Barnes as hard as he could twice in the face.

In all, reports show four officers took Alley-Barnes to the ground. According to Hunt's testimony at the criminal trial and other witnesses, Hunt kicked him several times in the head and torso while the others were holding him by his arms and legs. Later, when officers were leading the bloodied Alley-Barnes away, one can be heard on the dashboard-camera video telling him "it's because you're all mouth."

After his arrest and while he was in handcuffs at the East Precinct, Alley-Barnes later said, one of the officers smashed his face into a wall. Forensic tests found traces of blood on the wall.

One bystander who was taking photos of the Alley-Barnes arrest with his cellphone was pepper-sprayed and his phone confiscated, according to court documents.



The OPA spent nearly five months investigating the case. OPA Capt. Neil Low recommended that Sackman be disciplined for failing to perform his duties as a supervisor. He recommended Hunt be counseled by his supervisor for his use of force. Low recommended that the other two officers be exonerated.

But then-OPA Director Pailca took issue with Low's analysis of the incident. She not only found Sackman liable, but recommended to the chief that both Hunt and Jones be disciplined for excessive use of force.

Even though Hunt was directed to arrest Alley-Barnes by Sackman, "I do ... not think he is absolved of responsibility for his part in escalating the incident and his use of force was excessive," she wrote. The so-called "groin pick" was likely to result in "unnecessary pain and injury," she continued.

"In addition, though other officers were present and [Alley-Barnes] was prone, face down and not actively resisting, Hunt kicked ... from a standing position," Pailca wrote.

Likewise, Jones used excessive force when he punched Alley-Barnes "several times in the face," she concluded.

Pailca reserved her most stinging criticism for Sackman, who she said knew Alley-Barnes was not a threat and failed to communicate that to the other officers.

Kerlikowske did not take Pailca's suggestions: He exonerated Jones and Hunt of any wrongdoing. What his plans were for Sackman are not known, because the chief didn't impose discipline on the sergeant within the 180-day deadline outlined in the Seattle Police Officers' Guild contract.



A surveillance video of that arrest revealed inaccuracies in officers' reports that led the OPA's auditor to conclude they lied. Criminal charges against the drug dealer were dropped.

In the Alley-Barnes arrest on Capitol Hill, a patrol-car dashboard camera captured audio but not video. The audio revealed inconsistencies in the officers' accounts, according to court records.

Blows can be heard. A woman can be heard saying, "Oh my God!"

At one point, the 29-year-old Alley-Barnes -- an artist with no criminal record -- pleads with the officers to "please stop kicking me!"

Another voice can be heard saying, "That's way too much!"

The charges against Alley-Barnes were dismissed because the city failed to turn over the video to defense attorneys, according to court and police internal-affairs documents.

In dismissing the case, Municipal Court Judge Jean Rietschel found statements on the tape "impeach the officers' statements" because "there's nothing on the video about the alleged commands that each of the officers said were said to Mr. Alley-Barnes" -- including telling him to put his hands behind his back.

What the tape does reveal, the judge said, are "a number of very inflammatory statements made by police" about "arresting a black" and about Alley-Barnes getting in trouble because of his big mouth.

More...
Posted by Phil M http://twitter.com/pmocek on October 27, 2012 at 11:02 AM · Report this
35
After SPD OPA found Sackman to have engaged in the above-described misconduct, he was promoted from Sergeant to Lieutenant and put in charge of SPD's drone program.
Posted by Phil M http://twitter.com/pmocek on October 27, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
36
Way to stay on-topic, there, Phil.
Posted by robotslave on October 27, 2012 at 12:05 PM · Report this
GlibReaper 37
Please keep us posted on the next show and tell with the SPD drone fleet. I'll not bring my children next time, but perhaps I will bring "my little friend".
Posted by GlibReaper on October 28, 2012 at 11:13 AM · Report this
GlibReaper 38
@36 Phil's points are germane: one of the contentions here is that the SPD will continue it's pattern of withholding video which shows misconduct of their officers and obstructing justice.

The general availability of drones is inevitable. Their use by law enforcement agencies is not.
Posted by GlibReaper on October 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM · Report this
39
@36, Robotslave sarcastically implied that my comments @33, @34, and @35, were off-topic.

Here's the topic: People don't trust SPD staff to use flying surveillance cameras in an ethical and constitutional manner, and they showed up at Thursday's presentation to voice that opinion.

Relevant: Employees of the Seattle Police Department have a history of disregarding constitutional protections against government intrusion upon our liberty.

Relevant: The guy SPD put in charge of this controversial program of autonomous airborne surveillance cameras -- Greg W. Sackman, serial #6052 -- once watched as his subordinates beat an innocent man bloody for simply voicing his opinion, then participated in the attempted coverup which involved refusing to provide video recorded by the police. SPD's own internal investigations staff found this to be the case, yet Sackman was promoted and put in charge of a program that will have SPD staff collecting warrantless video surveillance from the sky.

Mr. Sackman's 2005 incident and his appointment to this position demonstrates not only that the lead of the SPD drone program is not to be trusted with these devices, but also that SPD management are so oblivious to or unconcerned with the potential for abuse that this program presents that they put somebody with a record of serious ethical violations -- involving police video, no less -- in charge of it.
Posted by Phil M http://twitter.com/pmocek on October 28, 2012 at 12:35 PM · Report this

Add a comment

Commenting on this item is available only to registered commenters.
Advertisement

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy