Several civil rights groups and political organizations are asking Lawrence city commissioners to pass an ordinance limiting the ability of police or other departments to use drones, even though the city has none of the devices and isn’t planning to obtain them.
Lawrence-based Kansans for Responsible Drone Use, headed by Ben Jones, asked the commission in May to consider a city policy, but the issue hasn’t come up again for discussion since then. Now, with other groups joining in the effort, Jones hopes the broad-based coalition will spur action.
“The concern would be having drones in place 24 hours a day for surveillance purposes,” he said. “That may not happen tomorrow, but we also understand that technology is advancing.”
Mayor Mike Dever said he is willing to consider a policy, but he doesn’t think drones are in the city’s immediate future.
“I personally don’t foresee any application for drones that I would see as a reasonable extension of city oversight or law enforcement activities,” he said.
Since Jones made his first request in May, he has received support from Douglas County Libertarians, the Douglas County Republican Party, the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice, MadreLawrence, and the University of Kansas’ Young Americans for Liberty.
The groups are asking for a moratorium on drone usage until guidelines have been developed at the state level and for a ban on the city ever using drones with weapons.
“We’re finding out about liberties we have lost after the fact,” said Jana Rea, chairwoman of the Douglas County Republican Party. “I think it is real prudent to put a policy in place now.”