Sheriff: No drones in Jacksonville

Rutherford says he can see how they'd be beneficial


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford says he has no plans to bring drones to Jacksonville, but the sheriff says he can see where they could be a benefit.

Rutherford has been to Tallahassee talking about drones, but for now, they're not in local skies.

The River City is no stranger to surveillance cameras. There are cameras on streets downtown, and they can see people from the air. But the cameras already in place are used for crowd control.

Now that small remote controlled devices with cameras are popping up in police departments around the state, what do people think about them possibly flying around Jacksonville.

"I think it would depend on the circumstances," resident Derrick King said. "If they were used for drug surveillance, something like that would be a good idea. But for everyday invasion of privacy, I would not agree to it."

"Depends on the area they were policing, you know, where they would be," resident Mike Gonzales said. "I would not want them over my neighborhood."

Rutherford has been tackling the use of drones in his position with the Florida Sheriffs Association. Legislation is being considered that would limit the use of drones in Florida, something the sheriff says he could support.

"If there was a situation where that could assist in keeping officers safe in the service of an arrest warrant, that sort of thing," Rutherford said. "Giving us the warrants, we need to approach a location that may be highly dangerous. And that is what the use of a drone would be limited to."

Rutherford says right now drones are not on the table in Jacksonville. Even though they would be cheaper than manned helicopters, he is not sure they would be as effective in life-saving situations. And he is adamant that they would never be used to spy on residents in their backyard.

"Just routine patrol where you are out there observing the public in general," Rutherford said. "No, we would not use them for that, and I don't think the law is going to allow that."