UPDATE (Monday, 2/11): Yesterday, the Daily Express, a British news outlet, reported that the LAPD was using drones in its search for ex-cop Chris Dorner. I reported on this, though I also pointed out that it might not be true. Upon further investigation, it turns out there is no evidence to back the Express article.
CNN reporter Nick Valencia tells me that that every agency from DHS to US Customs and Border Patrol has denied deploying drones to help with the manhunt. And Mashable has published an excellent piece debunking the drone rumor.
The LAPD-led manhunt for Chris Dorner just took a turn for the creepy. According to the Daily Express, aerial drones may have been deployed to assist law enforcement in their search for the 33-year-old ex-cop suspected of killing three people over since last week.
Yesterday, as a task force of 125 officers, some riding Snowcats in the rugged terrain, continued their search, it was revealed that Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil.
A senior police source said: “The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Asked directly if drones have already been deployed, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, who is jointly leading the task force, said: “We are using all the tools at our disposal.”
The use of drones was later confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio, who revealed agents have been prepared for Dorner to make a dash for the Mexican border since his rampage began.
He said: “This agency has been at the forefront of domestic use of drones by law enforcement. That’s all I can say at the moment.”
This wouldn’t be the first time drones have been used by US law enforcement. In fact, more and more police agencies throughout the country are attempting to add drones to their increasingly militarized arsenals.
Sill, if this is true it’s a significant move on the part of law enforcement because aside from a handful of known instances police use of drones on US soil has been mostly a hypothetical.
Though the drones being used are likely unarmed (the Express refers to them as “spy drones”) their use could set a new precedent for domestic policing and surveillance. And not to sound alarmist but we have to consider the highly unlikely though totally plausible scenario where police choose to take Dorner out with an armed drone (we’re all thinking it so why not say it out loud). I don’t see this happening for a number of reasons but without proper regulations drones can be slippery slope.