Request Submitted To: Boston Police Department

Category: Surveillance

Year Filed: 2017


On Saturday, July 15, 2017, neighbors approached Jamaica Plain resident and community activist Corey McMillen with some startling news: there was a drone flying around their housing project. Corey went outside to look, and sure enough, he saw two Boston Police squad cars, two officers, and a buzzing drone with a red light on it. “One officer had the drone in his hand,” McMillen told the Boston Globe. “He let it go and flew it 20 to 25 feet in the air. He seemed to be testing it out.”

After Corey confirmed with his own eyes what his neighbors had seen, he called the ACLU. “Some Boston Police officers are flying a drone in my community,” he said. We were startled. After all, the Boston Police Department had never announced that it planned to purchase any drones. We pay close attention to law enforcement surveillance in Boston and surrounding areas, and this was the first we had heard about the BPD using drones. We asked Corey to take some photos, which he promptly did, and told him we’d look into it.

In response to this troubling tip, we filed a public records request to seek out more information about any unsanctioned drone use by Boston Police Department. Specifically, we sought budgetary records, technical specifications, internal policies, and memoranda, as well as records that could tell us more about what exactly the BPD officers were doing flying a drone in Jamaica Plain on July 15. Specifically, we wanted a legal justification from BPD for deploying the drone that day, as well as the video, images, or audio the drone collected on its flight.

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