Berkeley Town Hall Meeting Tonight on Banning Drones

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday May 01, 2013 - 04:46:00 PM

Two Berkeley commissions are sponsoring a town hall meeting tonight on a recommendation that would ban drones in Berkeley. 

Bob Meola of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, which is sponsoring the meeting along with the city's Police Review Commission, said today that "drone technology is currently way ahead of safeguards for the protection of privacy and civil liberties of people they would affect." 

Meola said that on Dec. 18, the Berkeley City Council reviewed a recommendation by the Peace and Justice Commission that would proclaim Berkeley to be a no-drone zone but the council referred the issue back to the Peace and Justice Commission, the Police Review Commission and the city's Disaster and Fire Safety Commission for further review. 

He said the meeting tonight will focus on the technical aspects and limitations of drones, whether drones would really improve public safety, civil liberties concerns and the moral and political consequences of drones. 

Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern is considering buying a drone to be used in certain emergency situations but his proposal is still being reviewed. 

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson has said that the drone wouldn't be used for random surveillance but would instead be reserved for situations such as when authorities are looking for a barricaded suspect. 

Meola said he first proposed a no-drone policy for Berkeley before he heard about Ahern's proposal to get one. He said he's concerned about drones in general because there are reports that the federal government plans to purchase thousands of drones in the next several years. 

Although some drones are large, some are small as insects and can be hard to see, Meola said. 

He said many other cities and 31 states are also considering legislation to regulate the use of drones. 

Meola said he hopes the Berkeley City Council will vote soon on the proposal to ban drones in the city. 

The town hall meeting will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. tonight at the multi-purpose room at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 1901 Hearst Ave. at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Berkeley.