In a time when thousands of people are demonstrating to resist Trump Administration policies, the City of Chicago is championing legislation in Springfield allowing police to use drones to monitor these protests. The legislation – Senate Bill 2562 and House Bill 4405 – effectively guts ground-breaking legislation passed and signed into law just three years ago requiring a judicial warrant for the use of drones by police in Illinois.
“Given Chicago’s history of surveillance against protestors and social justice advocates – including by the notorious Red Squad –the Chicago police should not be able to use this new, powerful tool to monitor protestors near silently and from above,” said Karen Sheley, Director of the ACLU Police Practices Project. “The legislation also ignores sweeping surveillance tools currently available to the police – including an integrated public camera system that covers much of the City.”
Senate Bill 2562 (sponsored by Senator Martin Sandoval) and House Bill 4405 (sponsored by John D’Amico) both have cleared Committee and stand poised on the floor for a vote in both chambers. Both bills allow drones to be used to make video, audio and still recordings of crowds, and worse, to be equipped with facial recognition technology.
“If this bill is passed, as drafted, during the next large scale political rally, drones could identify and list people protesting the Trump administration,” added Sheley. “The sight of drones overhead, collecting information, may deter people from protesting in a time when so many want to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
“This is too much unchecked power to give to the police – in Chicago or anywhere.”
The ACLU argued against both measures in Committee and continues to speak with legislators about the real problems presented by the City’s grab for this broad, sweeping power.