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Connecticut lawmakers co-opt privacy bill to allow police use of drones armed with tear gas, explosives

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Connecticut lawmakers are pushing a bill that would legalize the use of armed drones for police officers. The state’s judiciary committee approved a bill on Thursday titled, “An Act Concerning the Use and Regulation of Drones” that would ban weaponized drones for use by anyone except for police officers, according to Gizmodo.

The bill would allow police officers to use drones armed with tear gas, incendiary devices, explosives, and “remote deadly weapons.” If the bill is signed, it would go into effect in October, 2017.

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In its original form, the bill did not include a provision to allow police to equip drones with arms. Rather, as David McGuire, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut tells Raw Story, “The underlying bill was strong because it only authorized police to use drones with a warrant for surveillance.”

The original bill required officers to obtain a warrant before surveilling individuals suspected of a crime, and would require police to report annually how they used drones. “It protected privacy and free speech rights,” said McGuire.

The added provision, McGuire said, “turned a bill that was about protecting peoples’ rights into a bill that violates peoples’ civil rights by allowing use of force.”

State Senator John Kissel told the Associated Press that the committee added the provision “for very limited circumstances.” Kissel said, “We can certainly envision some incident on some campus or someplace where someone is a rogue shooter or someone was kidnapped and you try to blow out a tire.”

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The United States has seen a growing militarization of police forces in recent years. The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri that followed the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014 drew public attention to the 1033 Program — or the National Defense Authorization Act — that allowed the transfer of excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies.

During a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas in July 2016, police used a robot equipped with a bomb to kill a sniper who had killed five police officers, setting a new and dangerous precedent for policing.

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McGuire tells me, “We have been struggling with the issue of militarization of police — this [bill] would be escalating that in a serious and unprecedented way.”

“This amendment would send a terrible message to over-policed and victimized communities,” McGuire said. He added that the last few years have been spent working to rebuild community trust in law enforcement.

If the bill passes with the added amendment, Connecticut would be the first state in the country allowing police to use drones with lethal weapons. “I think you would see more use of force,” said McGuire. But he remains positive that the bill can go back to its original intent.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Trump fans smacked down for whining the president is being called a ‘racist’ in righteous rant

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Addressing complaints from both White House officials and fans of Donald Trump that they are tired of hearing the president called a racist, "AM Joy" regular Tiffany Cross fired right back saying they better get used to it.

Following clips of White House adviser Stephen Miller attempting to explain the White House's policies on immigrants, the co-founder of The Beat DC stood up for labeling the president as a bogot.

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Before Trump eyed Greenland: Here’s what happened last time the US bought a large chunk of the Arctic

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Editor’s note: Reports that President Donald Trump has urged aides to look into buying Greenland make us think of the last time the United States bought a major territory in the Arctic: the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. Two years ago, we asked William L. Iggiagruk Hensley, a visiting professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, to write about that historic sale.

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CNN’s Jake Tapper confronts Trump adviser Navarro with long list of experts calling him a disaster

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In a highly contentious interview on CNN's "State of the Union", host Jake Tapper confronted Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Peter Navarro, with a seemingly endless list of economists, analysts and business publications who believe he and his economic advice have both been a disaster and that he is not being straight with the public.

After refusing multiple times to concede that President Donald Trump's trade war -- and accompanying tariffs -- are having any effect on an economy that many financial prognosticators believe is headed towards a recession, Tapper confronted the White House adviser with the list of his critics -- including the Wall Street Journal.

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