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Governor's signature could limit drone use by law enforcement

URBANA -- A state bill to limit police use of drones is waiting for the governor's approval.
URBANA -- A state bill to limit police use of drones is waiting for the governor's approval. If passed, officers could only use them if they get special permission.

The Champaign County Sheriff's Department bought one about five years ago. It's not currently working, but the sheriff says they have the pieces and parts for the drone they purchased.

If Governor Quinn signs Senate Bill 1587 into law, the department couldn't use it without getting a search warrant first. Other exceptions include terrorist attacks or some other kind of emergency.

Supporters of the bill say stricter rules will help protect people's privacy, but the sheriff says having to take extra steps before using a drone could compromise an investigation. The sheriff says his crews never used the drone, but if they did, it would most likely be for search missions like finding dementia patients or children who wandered away from home.

Drones could also be used to track down stolen property or crime scene reconstruction. The sheriff says they're not actively looking for a replacement drone, but may be open to it in the future. It all depends on what kind of law is in place by then. The governor has 60 days to sign or veto the bill.
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