Seattle Grounds Police Drones Program

Feb 8, 2013

SPD Drone
Seattle Police Officer James with a drone.
Credit KUOW photo/Amy Radil

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn put an end to a controversial  program where unmanned miniature helicopters equipped with cameras would be used to fight crime. Critics had privacy concerns about police surveillance. The timing of Mayor McGinn's decision could become an issue in his re-election bid.

The Seattle Police Department had been testing two drones they purchased with federal grant money. Each drone cost $41,000. The city will now return them to the vendor. Mayor McGinn said the drone program "just wasn't a priority" in the context of improving public safety and community trust.

But City Councilmember Bruce Harrell questioned why the program was scrapped only after months of police training, public testimony and debate. "The tougher decision, the hard work, would have been to come up with regulations that work," said Harrell, who chairs the council's public safety committee. He's also running to unseat Mayor McGinn this fall.