Ethics on the fly: toward a drone-specific code of conduct for law enforcement
Smith, Brian T.
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This thesis examines the issue of law enforcement’s use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from an ethical perspective. As UAS have only recently been introduced into the National Airspace System (NAS), legislation regarding their use in America’s skies is lacking. This dearth of statutory guidelines creates a circumstance wherein self-imposed limits on UAS use by law enforcement take on greater importance. The primary research question posed by this thesis is whether a prevailing ethical framework exists to govern the use of UAS by domestic law enforcement functions. It concluded no consensus exists. Using the case study method, this thesis considered documentary evidence of ethical frameworks for UAS currently in use by law enforcement. A comparative policy analysis is then performed to identify overlapping areas of concern, in order to arrive at a template that recommends seven dimensions that law enforcement executives should consider in creating a drone-specific code of conduct for policing. A case is made for publicly declaring an agency’s code of conduct in the interest of strengthening the relationship between police and the public vis-à-vis the social contract.
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