Legislative Group Discusses Law Enforcement Use of Drones

The Subcommittee on Data Practices heard testimony from the League and others about proposed legislation regarding the use of drones by law enforcement.
(Published Aug 5, 2019)

The Legislative Coordinating Commission Subcommittee on Data Practices met on July 24 to discuss a bill on law enforcement use of drones. This discussion will continue at its next meeting in September.

The bill, SC 5562, was introduced during the 2019 legislative session, but did not pass. It is expected to continue to be considered in 2020.

Testifiers discuss concerns, experience

During the July 24 meeting, a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which was the driver of this bill in the 2019 legislative session, shared concerns about warrantless surveillance of the public by law enforcement. The ACLU worked with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) on the bill language.

Drew Evans, BCA superintendent, expressed that law enforcement understands that drones need to be regulated. There should be a balance of privacy rights of individuals with government gathering of information in criminal investigations. The BCA believes the best way to address these issues is through data classification.

Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie and Rochester Lt. Mike Sadauskis testified on their current use of drones, including adopted policies and practices as safeguards.

League testimony

The League provided testimony on the impact of technology on the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA). This law was first enacted more than 40 years ago, and has not comprehensively addressed the many changes in technology over time.

Instead of a piecemeal approach with each technological change, the League encouraged a comprehensive review of the MGDPA.

Other potential topics for subcommittee

The Subcommittee on Data Practices will address bills introduced in the 2019 legislative session, which may include search warrant requirements for electronic communication information (SC 5564) and location tracking warrant disclosure (SC 5565).

Other topics could also include government use of cloud-based storage, data breach notification, body-worn camera audits, and facial recognition software.

Creation of Data Practices Subcommittee

The Legislature did not approve funding for the Legislative Commission on Data Practices in the 2019 legislative session. Nevertheless, the Legislature wanted to continue its work on data practices in between legislative sessions, thus adopted a resolution establishing this subcommittee.

The subcommittee members include Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) as the chair, Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul) as vice chair, Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove), Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley), Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton), Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL-Shoreview), and Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover).

This subcommittee could meet up to six times before the 2020 legislative session. The League will keep cities informed of what is discussed in these meetings.

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