“I’m tickled to death,” giggled Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Officer in Texas. The source of McDaniel’s childish glee was his department’s latest lethal toy, a $300,000 ShadowHawk UAV weapons platform purchased by way of a Homeland Security grant. “It’s so simple in its design and the objectives, you just wonder why anyone would choose not to have it,” McDaniel continues — and since the Feds are literally giving them away, why would any “local” police department turn one down?
According to Michael Buscher, chief executive officer of manufacturer Vanguard Defense Industries, the MCSO is the first local law enforcement agency to buy one of the ShadowHawk drones.
“The aircraft has the capability to have a number of different systems on board,” he points out. “Mostly, for law enforcement, we focus on what we call less lethal systems” — including tasers and a “stun baton” that fires high-impact beanbag rounds. “You have a stun baton where you can actually engage somebody at altitude with the aircraft,” Buscher explains. “A stun baton would essentially disable a suspect.” The vehicle is also equipped with forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, that can be used to detect “heat from a gun or a suspect’s body.”
“To be in on the ground floor of this is pretty exciting for us here in Montgomery County,” Sheriff Tommy Gage exulted. He also promised that his department would use this power only for good: “No matter what we do in law enforcement, somebody’s going to question it, but we’re going to do the right thing, and I can assure you of that.” After all, it’s not as if police have ever abused new surveillance and “pain compliance” technologies….
The ShadowHawk can be upgraded into a fully operational killing machine of the kind increasingly used by the Regime overseas. As civil liberties activist Scott Henson points out, the Texas legislature — which can’t let a single session go by without devising a net set of felony offenses — is likely to capitalize on the new technology to create more work for prosecutors:
“How much you wanna bet this new technology spawns a new felony of some sort next session for shooting a paintball or throwing a rock at a police drone flying over your backyard? Do you remember the brilliant shot from the intro to The Wire where the kid hurls a rock at the surveillance camera, cracking the lens? Run this drone flying low in urban areas and you’re going to get a little of that. Also, the headlines won’t be so cheerful the first time the remote pilot crashes the thing or flies into a building or through the electrical wires.”
Dr. P.W. Singer of the Brookings Institution coined the expression “predator porn” to describe footage of drone-fired missile attacks carried out by the Pentagon and the CIA overseas. Within a few years, snuff films of that kind will probably be a regular feature of “reality TV” programs extolling the supposed heroism of the Regime’s domestic enforcement apparatus.
(Note: The original version of this essay incorrectly identified the estimable Mr. Henson as an attorney. I regret the error — and appreciate his indispensable blog, Grits for Breakfast.)10:01 am on October 30, 2011 Email William Norman Grigg