Borderhawk Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio told a Phoenix radio program on Tuesday he wants an unmanned aerial vehicle “or two” to help his department crack down on drugs.
Arpaio addressed the topic after being asked about reports that he was looking to acquire a “fleet” of drones.
“A fleet? I want one, or two,” Arpaio said. “And they’re not the drones they have in Afghanistan or at the U.S.-Mexican border. These are small drones the size of a briefcase. High-tech, can take photos, and surveillance. Go after the dope peddlers, search and rescue, try to stop the contraband from coming over the fence in our tents. So what’s wrong with that?”
Arpaio dismissed concerns that the drones would be used in his ongoing efforts against illegal immigration.
“I ran for sheriff to do things different,” he said. “I’m elected, I report to the people. It’s sad that there’s certain groups right away, saying I’m going after illegal aliens in the desert with drones. Come on. Come on. We’re going after dope peddlers. But they always want to hook everything up to illegal immigration to put the cuffs on me, so I don’t do my job as the sheriff.”
Asked by KFYI host Mike Broomhead about privacy concerns “good people” have about law enforcement using drones, Arpaio reiterated that he wanted drones to go after “dope peddlers.”
“[L]et me say, my program isn’t to fly over swimming pools in downtown Phoenix,” Arpaio said. “It’s going out to the boondocks, where my people are locking up dope peddlers — gun battles — so I’ll do anything I can to protect my deputies. And also to find and locate missing people in the desert. We’ve located 30, 12 were killed. I think the immigration people should be praising me for rescuing everyone. Now with drones we can do it more easily. From up in the air, take pictures, locate them, and everything else. So why are they worried about me going out enforcing the laws in the desert and trying to secure the tents more by flying around, stopping contraband?”
He also suggested that NSA surveillance was more of an issue than his department using drones would be.
“As far as that general question, why don’t you look at the NSA?” Arpaio said. “I know my house is everywhere in the world, I wonder if my name is everywhere in the world, that’s another issue that might be interesting in the future. So why is everybody concerned about a drone flying — what about helicopters? They’re out there all the time look at the — trying to locate fugitive and everything else.”