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Sheriff: Managing Drone Footage A Challenge For Law Officials

Sheriff Clay Whittle of Columbia County Sheriff's Department in Georgia said his department uses drones, similar to this, for searches. He said the county deletes irrelevant video and keeping it would be costly.
Sheriff Clay Whittle of Columbia County Sheriff's Department in Georgia said his department uses drones, similar to this, for searches. He said the county deletes irrelevant video and keeping it would be costly.
Credit B YSTEBO / FLICKR.COM/DESODA
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Law enforcement officials say they’re concerned possible new laws regulating the use of drones would make it hard to manage evidence while ensuring privacy. 

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Department in Georgia has a fleet of drones used for searches. 

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Georgia House Study committee on drone use, Sheriff Clay Whittle said there aren’t consistent statewide rules about what happens to irrelevant drone footage — for example, video of someone’s backyard recorded during a missing person search. 

“We don’t want to keep it because that becomes a nightmare when you start talking about open records of all the video that you could possibly have simply because you’re flying from point A to point B,” he said. 

The county deletes irrelevant video, according to Whittle, and keeping it would be costly. The sheriff also voiced his concerns for the privacy of citizens. 

Whittle said existing evidence rules can be adapted to include drone footage. 

“My private property’s in Columbia County like everybody else’s is,” he said. “And I don’t want folks flying drones over my house, if they don’t have a legitimate purpose for it.”