Regulating the use of drones

It appears North Dakota will be among the states at least discussing restricting the use of unmanned planes for law enforcement purposes.

State Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, said last week he plans to introduce a bill in the 2013 Legislature that would create regulations for the use of drones by law enforcement. He says his intention is to protect the privacy of citizens, not hinder law enforcement.

State courts upheld the use of drones in the arrest of a Lakota man in 2011, the case that is behind Becker’s planned bill. But opponents of using drones say the state needs some regulations so the practice isn’t abused by law enforcement agencies. Police officials say the unmanned drones aren’t used to peer in anyone’s windows or otherwise intrude on a citizens’ privacy. Rather, they say, the drones represent new technology that can be useful in a wide variety of cases, including standoffs and searching for missing persons.

The debate will be interesting to listen to, for sure, whether or not the Legislature adopts new laws governing the use of drones. But there should be room for lawmakers to find proper balance between using drones when the technology would make police work safer and more effective and using them in an intrusive manner.