Illinois legislature approves bill allowing police drones to monitor large gatherings of people


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The Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill greatly expanding the ability of state’s police departments to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to surveil any large gathering of people.

The measure targets any public or private assembly of at least 1,500 people. The House had defeated a previous version of the bill last week after Chicago-area Democrats, wary that additional police drones would unfairly target events in predominately black neighborhoods, objected to the bill’s allowance of facial-recognition software and a much lower threshold for crowd sizes.

The Illinois Senate passed a version of the bill, which is backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and law-enforcement groups throughout the state, earlier this month.

The revised bill the House passed Wednesday contains amendments banning the use of facial-recognition programs and raising the minimum crowd size from 100. Opponents of the original bill said a threshold that low could’ve opened relatively small events like block parties and family gatherings to drone surveillance.

While the amended bill passed by a wide margin, the compromise wasn’t without detractors.

“It was disappointing that the definition of a crowd size went from 100 to 1,500, but that was part of the negotiations or the bill might have died,” Ed Wojcicki, executive director for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, told the State Journal-Register in Springfield.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Illinois chapter, which had previously expressed its opposition to the bill, said it was disappointed by the House’s passage. The amended bill will have to be voted on by the Illinois Senate before it goes to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

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Drones / UAS / UAV, Emerging Technology, Illinois, Law Enforcement, Public Safety, State & Local News, States, Tech News