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Tue, Feb 14, 2023

Police Departments Sued for Helicopter Patrols

Rotor-Noise vs Security

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) is being sued by a pair of local groups who allege the department has refused to disclose records pertaining to its helicopter fleet.

The grassroots community group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and the University of California Los Angeles’s (UCLA) Carceral Ecologies Lab announced their joint lawsuit on Friday, 10 February 2023.

Matyos Kidane of Stop LAPD Spying Coalition lamented: "Black communities have long experienced police helicopters menacing us from the sky and surveilling all our movements. From a young age, I've been unable to sleep at night as LAPD helicopters loudly prowl overhead."

A statement issued by the two groups set forth that in July 2022, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and UCLA Carceral Ecologies Lab filed records requests with the LASD and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) seeking data germane to the departments’ respective helicopter fleets—to include registration numbers, budget documentation, and staffing overviews.

The statement alleged: "After a response on behalf of Sheriff Villanueva stated in August that they had identified records and would complete review in sixty days, the Department has refused to disclose any records and has stopped responding to communications about the request.”

UCLA assistant professor of biology and society Nicholas Shapiro remarked: "We're told that this service of aerial surveillance is in the name of public safety. What we need this data for is to assess if that supposed public safety service is actually causing racialized harm."

Los Angeles County community members have complained bitterly and often about the constant presence of helicopters in the high-crime neighborhoods they inhabit, contending perpetual police presence is adversely affecting their otherwise serene way of life.

Compton resident Bianca Gordon averred: "I understand you're patrolling the area, that's fine. But, you don't have to do it at a low stance so it is a problem in the neighborhood.”

Such accounts and opinions form the basis of the two groups’ inquiries after police helicopter activity and the lawsuit subsequently occasioned by their collective dissatisfaction with LASD’s/LAPD’s ostensible indifference to insinuations that aerial law-enforcement operations have negatively impacted livelihoods in high-crime locales.

Assistant professor Shapiro posited: "Sleep disturbance can negatively impact mental health, physical health, workplace performance, and education attainment. We're really trying to understand how helicopters are interrupting Black, Latinx, and indigenous dreaming."

Constraining his remarks to police helicopters, Shapiro made no mention of sleep disturbances attributable to gang violence, gunshots, carjackings, arson, armed robbery, extortion, and homicide, and the effects such may have on mental and physical health; workplace performance; education attainment; and survival—if not multicultural dreaming.

Preliminary findings of studies undertaken by the plaintiffs indicate that law-enforcement helicopters disproportionately surveil disproportionately crime-ridden neighborhoods, thereby engendering anxiety among criminals and sleep-deprivation among citizens.

Notwithstanding the concepts espoused by Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and UCLA’s Carceral Ecologies Lab, many residents of Los Angeles County are grateful for the security afforded them and their neighborhoods by nightly aerial law-enforcement patrols.

"I feel safer when I hear the sound than when I don't hear it," confided Compton resident Herman Lloyd. "They can see more things in the sky than we can down here. So I feel, with the Sheriff's helicopter flying around, I feel more secure. It doesn't bother me."

FMI: https://lasd.org/

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