Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

N.Y.P.D. Will Use Drones to Monitor Labor Day Celebrations

The beating of drums. The bleating of horns. And now: the buzz of police drones.

New York City’s Labor Day revelry will have a new noise this year as the Police Department plans to deploy the remote-controlled, camera-equipped aircraft to monitor large gatherings — even backyard parties — connected to West Indian American Day celebrations in Brooklyn.

The plan was announced at a briefing on Thursday in Brooklyn ahead of J’Ouvert and the West Indian American Day Parade, events that honor the region’s diaspora — New York is home to over 600,000 residents of non-Hispanic Caribbean descent. The celebrations commemorate emancipation, but have been the setting of violence in years past, with shootings marring previous events.

Both events are set to take place Monday, with J’Ouvert, a predawn carnival procession, kicking off the celebrations at around 6 a.m. in Crown Heights. The festivities typically attract around two million people.

Kaz Daughtry, an assistant police commissioner, said that the drone teams would be present starting Thursday night and would remain on duty through Monday morning.

“If a caller states there’s a large crowd, a large party in the backyard,” Mr. Daughtry said, “we’re going to be utilizing our assets to go up, to go check on the party, to make sure if the call is founded or not.”

But such robotic oversight is intrusive and illegal, critics said, and some noted that those being watched are predominantly Black.

“Deploying surveillance drones over New Yorkers gathering with their friends and families to celebrate J’Ouvert is racialized discrimination and it doesn’t make us safer,” Daniel Schwarz, who scrutinizes technology and privacy for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “As the N.Y.P.D. keeps deploying these dystopian technologies, we must push for stricter guardrails — especially given the department’s lengthy history of surveilling and policing Black and brown communities.”

Efforts to reach the West Indian American Day Carnival Association were unsuccessful.

The move was the latest expansion of the city’s use of drones. The police used them to broadcast announcements after this summer’s Pride parade in Washington Square Park in Manhattan, telling people that it was time to head home. During mayhem in Union Square last month after a video game console giveaway went awry, the police used drones to identify areas where officers should respond. The city used them this summer to monitor shark activity at beaches, and the police said in July that drones would deliver public service announcements in the event of a natural disaster.

“We have to push back on the sci-fi aspects of drones,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a news conference Friday. “No one’s going to be monitoring what you’re talking about, your conversation.”

Mr. Adams said the drones, which he referred to as a “smart, excellent tool,” would be used from a safe distance — “not down flying in someone’s backyard to see what they have on the grill.”

Albert Fox Cahn, a lawyer and the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, described Thursday’s announcement as “a lawsuit in the making.”

Mr. Cahn noted that while police forces have long been allowed to use planes and helicopters for surveillance, the use of low-flying drones — some of which can record audio — to monitor a barbecue raised questions about New Yorkers’ constitutional rights against unlawful searches.

“This is ripe for abuse,” Mr. Cahn said. “The mayor keeps doing this. Whenever there’s something that might generate a bad headline, he looks for some technological gimmick that can fix it.”

Mr. Adams, a retired police captain, has been vocal about his support for technology in policing. In addition to drones, Mr. Adams has pushed for the introduction of robotic dogs and GPS trackers.

“He’s big into technology in terms of trying to keep the city safe in innovative ways,” John Chell, the Police Department’s chief of patrol, said of the mayor in an interview with WPIX this week. “We can get the drones there quicker than a police car, and they can spot out what the situation is from overhead, and give us a heads up of what we’re looking at.”

Mr. Cahn said that despite that argument, a drone was not the same as a human responder who could render aid or break up a fight.

“Camera systems sometimes can be helpful in investigating crimes, but they’re really ineffective as a deterrent,” Mr. Cahn said. “We continue to have police peddling the myth that their technology somehow will magically keep us safe, when in fact, it’s long term structural investments in public safety that are proven to be effective.”

Hurubie Meko and Maria Cramer contributed reporting.

Claire Fahy reports on New York City and the surrounding area for The New York Times. She can be reached at [email protected]. More about Claire Fahy

Source: Read Full Article

Related Posts