Drones and Law Enforcement – The Future is Now

By: Curtis M. Graham, Esq.

Nowadays it is not uncommon to look up into the sky and see a drone flying overhead. Everyone seems to have one. The rise (pun intended) of unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAVs”) presents interesting questions for law enforcement officials across the country. Some are responding to criminal complaints, as was the case when a University of Kentucky student was charged with second degree wanton endangerment after flying his drone into Commonwealth Stadium prior to a football game last fall. Others are utilizing UAVs to conduct their own search and rescues.

The Somerset Police Department in Kentucky is believed to be the first police department in Kentucky to use an UAV. The Department has received training from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and has created policies and procedures governing the device’s operation. One Department official commented that they are required to notify air traffic controllers at least 30 minutes before any flight and that they cannot fly higher than 400 feet above ground level. Additionally, officials must maintain visual contact with the drone at all times while it is in flight and all pilots must be FAA certified.

But the law is unsettled, and the Kentucky legislature will soon hear House Bill 22 which could prohibit the use of evidence obtained by drones in criminal trials. Additionally, law enforcement agencies using drones would be required to use the drone “in a manner to collect data only on the target and minimize data collection on individuals, homes, or areas other than the target.” The proposed title for the law is the Citizens’ Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act.

Kentucky is not the only state confronting these issues. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 45 states considered at least 156 bills relating to drones in 2015. Needless to say the law in this area is rapidly changing, and it is important for law enforcement officials to stay current on the state of the laws governing drone use.

For questions or more information on “Drones and Law Enforcement – The Future is Now,” contact:

Curtis M. Graham  – MRR Lexington
Phone: 859.899.8516
Fax: 859.899.8498
Email: cgraham@mrrlaw.com

Law Enforcement Blog: Use of Force Policies and Procedures: Lessons from the Big Apple

By: Christina L. Vessels, Esq.

Last October, the Office of the Inspector General for the New York Police Department published a Report entitled “Police Use of Force in New York City: Findings and Recommendations on NYPD’s Policies and Practices.” The Report focuses on five aspects of use of force within the NYPD: (1) trends; (2) reporting; (3) de-escalation; (4) training; and (5) discipline.

There are several significant findings in this 62-page Report. Perhaps most notable is the Report’s conclusion that “NYPD’s current use-of-force policy is vague and imprecise, providing little guidance to individual officers on what actions constitute force.” The OIG’s recommendation is for NYPD to adopt a more precise use-of-force Patrol Guide procedure that includes greater clarity on what is meant by “force,” “excessive force,” and “deadly force.”

The Report also states that NYPD’s current procedure for documenting and reporting force incidents needs improvement. There is currently no centralized, uniform use-of-force reporting mechanism, and there are problems with the way officers are describing incidents of force after they occur. NYPD officers often fail to use sufficiently descriptive language that properly captures the specifics of an encounter. The Report suggests the creation of a new reporting form in which officers articulate the type, nature, and seriousness of resistance exhibited by the citizen that preceded and necessitated the use of force. Officers are also urged to reference whether other officers used force and the timing of the use of force.

These are just some highlights. You can find the Report in its entirety here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/oignypd/assets/downloads/pdf/oig_nypd_use_of_force_report_-_oct_1_2015.pdf

If an independent agency were to closely examine your Department’s use-of-force policy, what conclusions would it draw? How can your policy be improved?

For questions or more information on “Use of Force Policies and Procedures: Lessons from the Big Apple,” contact:

Christina L. Vessels  – MRR Lexington
Phone: 859.899.8515
Fax: 859.899.8498
Email: cvessels@mrrlaw.com

MRR Ohio Legislative Updates: January 28, 2016 – February 11, 2016

Notes from the House of Representatives:

  • H.B. 444 was introduced to allow certain D liquor permit holders to provide free tasting samples of beer, wine, and spirituous liquor to a person who is 21 years old or older and a paying customer of the permit holder
  • H.J.R. 6 was considered for the first time proposing to enact Section 18 of Article VIII of the Constitution of the State of Ohio to prohibit state agencies and the state’s public retirement systems from contracting with and investing in companies with certain business operations in countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism and to require state agencies and public retirement systems to divest investments from such companies
  • H.B. 450 was introduced to authorize a law enforcement officer to purchase a police dog or horse for one dollar when the officer retires in good standing from a law enforcement agency and certain conditions are met
  • H.B. 455 was introduced to authorize a municipal corporation or township to establish a boarding school zone and a special speed limit within that zone
  • Sub. H.B. 182 passed upon third consideration to revise the law governing the creation and operation of joint economic development districts and enterprise zones

Notes from the Senate:

  • S.B. 268 was introduced to modify Ohio civil rights laws related to employment and the statute of limitations for other specified claims against an employer
  • S.B. 272 was introduced to authorize a law enforcement officer to purchase a police dog or horse for fair market value when the officer retires in good standing from a law enforcement agency and certain conditions are met
  • S.B. 273 was introduced to enact the Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Act, which would require an insurer domiciled in Ohio or an insurance group of which an Ohio insurer is a member, to submit an annual disclosure on corporate governance by June 1 each year

For questions or more information on MRR’s Ohio Legislation Updates, contact:

Stacy V. Pollock  – MRR Columbus
Phone: 614.324.0163
Email: spollock@mrrlaw.com



MRR Legislative Update: Senate Introduces SB 268 to Reform Employment Discrimination Cases

By: Tami Zupkow Hannon, Esq.

On February 1, 2016, SB 268 was introduced in the Ohio Senate. This bill, if passed, would reform the current state anti-discrimination laws. Of particular note, the proposed bill:

  • Reduces the time to file a state law discrimination claim from the current 6 years to 1 year;
  • Enlarges the current 180 day time frame to file a charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to 365 days;
  • Adopts damage caps on the amount of punitive and non-economic damages that can be awarded in a discrimination claim. The cap would be on a sliding scale based on employer size with damages ranging from $50,000 to $300,000;
  • Refines the definition of “employer” to remove reference to “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer;”
  • Clarifies that personal liability should not be imposed on managers, supervisors or coworkers for employment based discrimination claims (but note that personal liability may still be possible under the aiding and abetting provisions of R.C. §4112.02(J)); and
  • Limits the ability to file a civil suit in some instances where the claim was pending or previously filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

As the bill has only recently been introduced, it is likely that there will be revisions to the language as additional comments, debate and analysis is conducted. We will continue to monitor the status of this bill and provide updates as it proceeds through the General Assembly.

For questions or more information on “Senate Introduces SB 268 to Reform Employment Discrimination Cases,” contact:

Tami Zupkow Hannon  – MRR Cleveland
Phone: 440.424.0009
Fax: 440.248.8861
Email: thannon@mrrlaw.com