PHOENIX - State lawmakers on Wednesday gave the first clearance to a measure designed to require police to get search warrants before they use drones to gather evidence.
Approval of HB 2269 came despite the concerns of Lyle Mann, executive director of the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, the agency that certifies law enforcement officers in Arizona.
He said the measure, in restricting police, is looking at only one side of the issue. Mann said drones can be a valuable tool for law enforcement.
"I would submit to you that the drone, as a tool, will be as much a force multiplier for the good of public safety as the hand-held radio is," Mann told the House Committee on Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs.
He pointed out that the federal government already is using unmanned aircraft to patrol the border, and state and local police should have the same option to look for drug smugglers.
Mann said he appreciates the concerns for personal privacy, but "right now, we have helicopters that fly around and they see whatever they see." They just don't routinely take pictures, as a drone does, he said.
Mann told lawmakers if their concern is privacy, they should focus on how that information can be used, and how it can be saved and for how long, rather than restricting the drones in the first place.
Katy Proctor, lobbyist for the state Department of Public Safety, said her agency also has concerns.
Rep. Tom Forese, R-Chandler, who crafted the restriction, promised to consider their comments before the measure goes to the full House.
A more restrictive proposal by Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, was killed after he could not get his measure heard in the House Commerce Committee.