- Emergency Consultation Services
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By: Wayne Melnick
In the latest twist on law enforcement drone use, despite all the recent publicity regarding the militarization of local police departments, North Dakota has become the first state to legalize (or at least authorize) its police to equip drones with “less lethal” force. Although the bill was originally drafted to ban all weapons on police drones, following amendment in committee, North Dakota HB1328 came out of committee limiting the prohibition to only “lethal” weapons. That omission, whether intentional or not, allows for “less lethal” or “less than lethal” weapons to be used on drones. Less lethal force has traditionally included Tasers, stinger balls, bean bags, rubber bullets and even flash bang “grenades.” Understand, of course, that having the authority to use such technology does not mean that it is going to actually be used; at least not immediately.
The potential insurance and legal risks associated with local police forces arming drones with less than lethal force is potentially staggering – especially in light of the fact that there are no standards associated with the use of less than lethal force in such situations. We will continue to monitor this situation to see if any other states follow suit in allowing drones to be armed in this manner – and whether any police force actually utilizes this technology.
For now, it is incumbent upon insurers and police departments to review their risk associated with such a use of “less lethal” drones and whether the policies and coverage in place are sufficient for this brave new frontier of law enforcement.