Back in March 2017 we joked (below) about suggestions that the police would waste public money and take bobbies off the beat by forming and training new 'drone squads'. Well, truth of course is stranger than fiction these days, and dog walkers and solitary hikers out in the lonely wastes of the national parks have been buzzed by police drones. They exist. Who knew?
They were, of course, subject to the law. Gareth Corfield (@GazTheJourno) has questioned whether the use of drones, in particular by the Derbyshire Police, was not in violation of the Air Navigation Order 2016 - and there are compelling questions for the police to answer about the qualifications of those controlling these drones, their compliance with the law and the professional standards we should expect in their use. And I would expect such guidance to be agreed between ministers in the Home Office and Department of Transport, not concocted by the fatuous and self-styled 'College of Policing', which the public do not recognise as having any democratic or legislative legitimacy.
These secret drones will not be the last of the State's little surprises that this virus will bring out of the closet.
Anyhow, it's Saturday, the Sun is shining and here again is that whimsical piece from 2017
"So, Inspector, this proposed Drone Squad can be staffed by transfers from the Internet Porn Squad? How's that gone?"
"Well sir since 2004 the lads have watched over 2 million hours of online porn. Deserve a medal, they do sir. Constable Hotchkiss can't hear the word 'Brazilian' now without twitching."
"And how many arrests and convictions have resulted?"
"Just the one sir. The chairman of the golf club who put hidden cameras in the ladies. But that doesn't affect the deterrent effect of those evil film makers knowing that the Force is watching. And we've learnt our lesson - the lads need periodic rotation out of the squad. Hence the new Drone Squad, sir"
"Ah yes. Sergeant Thom bought one for his kids and saw the crime-busting possibilities straight away...."
"That's right sir. Of course, police drones would cost a lot more, it being taxpayers' money, and the lads would need professional training from the RAF"
"I'm still not happy about us flying these potentially lethal things over people's houses and gardens .. have you considered the risks?"
"We estimate that 80% of the time we'll be flying over public roads and open land. In particular it will allow the lads to gather video evidence of widespread 'dogging' activity in Knickers Woods, sir. We could spend a year keeping constant tabs on it all then swoop. Then there's the poofs sorry BLTs on Handy Heath. We can follow 'em sir from the sky without risking officers on the ground."
"You don't think there's a risk that some of this footage may leak onto the web? Doesn't this sort of surveillance constitute a variety of porn in itself?"
"That's the beauty of it sir. The Internet Porn Squad can keep an eye out for any leaked footage"
"Ah yes. When was the last time any of these men actually pounded a beat or responded to a disturbance? Some of them look as though they have difficulty walking"
"Yes sir. Injuries incurred in the line of service, watching the porn sir. Sixteen early ill-health retirements so far. We're hoping that working the drones gets them out of their chairs, sir. Into other chairs."
"Very well. Carry on, Inspector"