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Abstract

Following presidential declarations of “war” on drugs and terror, domestic law enforcement agencies were saddled with difficult and dangerous new duties. They responded to the danger by becoming more dangerous themselves; increasingly adopting the training, tactics, and equipment of the United States military. This “militarization” of domestic police officers has, predictably, led to a breakdown in community policing, almost one thousand fatal shootings by police officers per year, and growing rifts between law enforcement agencies and the communities they are sworn to protect. In this essay, I examine whether police drones armed with non-deadly force might, perhaps paradoxically, help to curb police militarization and reduce the risk of direct, armed confrontation between civilians and police officers. I argue that while there are some drawbacks with the use of armed drones, their unique ability to keep police officers out of harm’s way, thereby negating the legal justification for the use of deadly force, would halt the need for further police militarization and dramatically reduce the number of fatal police shootings.

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