Well, it’s happened. It was really only a matter of time before domestic law enforcement officials started using the assistance of domestic drone patrols. But the wait is over. Rodney Brossart was arrested in North Dakota with the help of a domestic drone, and now he has been sentenced to prison time after a judge shot down his Fourth Amendment appeals.
Rodney Brossart was apparently “harassing” police officers at his cattle ranch. Some cows had wandered onto his property, and he refused to return them to their rightful owner. The SWAT team was called in. After an armed standoff, they requested a Predator drone from the Department of Homeland Security (I wonder why they have so many to spare…). The Predator drone located Brossart in the house and confirmed when it was safe for the SWAT team to enter the house to make the arrest (which apparently included the application of a taser).
Brossart’s lawyer attempted to question the use of a domestic drone in the arrest of an American citizen. But an appeals judge upheld the legitimacy of using drones on American soil. And yesterday, Brossart was sentenced to three years in jail. So it looks like we have entered the Robocop age, for better or worse. It probably won’t take long before domestic drone assistance in arrests becomes domestic drone assistance in executing sentences. And when that day comes, I shudder to think the injustice that will be coldly executed with mass-produced efficiency.
And, as it turns out, this is not the first time the Department of Homeland Security has loaned out Predator drones to domestic law enforcement. According to U.S. News and World Report:
On Tuesday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil rights organization fighting against police use of drones, revealed documents that show that Customs and Border Patrol loaned its Predator drones 700 times between 2010 and 2012. The agency had previously admitted to lending out the drones 500 times, but said it misplaced the records for 200 additional flights, and “discovered that it did not release all entries from the daily reports for 2010-2012” on the eve of a federal hearing in a case involving EFF.
This is just the first time the police have admitted a domestic drone actually assisted in an arrest. But with the courts turning a favorable eye on it, I doubt it will be the last.