The original intent behind North Dakota House Bill 1328 was to limit police drone powers. Instead, however, police now have authorization to deploy drones armed with a number of non-lethal weapons, including tear gas, Tasers, rubber bullets, and more.
So, why the complete 180? According to a new report, the state’s police lobby successfully blocked restrictions on the type of equipment police could include on drones.
The International Business Times reports:
HB 1328 was initially meant to limit police drone powers. A draft of the bill banned all weapons on law enforcement drones, and required them to obtain a warrant before deploying an unmanned aerial vehicle in a search for criminal evidence. That was until the state house committee allowed Bruce Burkett of North Dakota's Peace Officer's Association, a police lobby group, to amend HB 1328 so it limited the weapons ban so that “less than lethal” weapons are still allowed, according to an extensive report in the Daily Beast.
Rep. Rick Becker, the Republican sponsor of the bill, is less than pleased with the final outcome. “This is one I’m not in full agreement with. I wish it was any weapon,” he said at a hearing in March, the Daily Beast reports. “In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized. Period.”’
While the IBT notes that extensive reporting requirements are in the final version of the measure for transparency purposes, it nevertheless allows law enforcement to use a whole gamut of “less than lethal” weapons that will certainly draw the ire of those on both sides of the political aisle who are concerned about the militarization of police.
Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the bill into law in April.