The New York Police Department has shown off its first fleet of drones, despite concerns that they could be too invasive or unfairly target communities of color.
The department said Tuesday that potential uses for its 14 drones include search and rescue, hard-to-reach crime scenes, hostage situations, and hazardous material incidents.
Drones can reduce risk to officers and bystanders during a response to dangerous situations, the department said. They'll be operated by officers who are specially trained and licensed.
The NYPD said the drones won't be used for routine patrol or traffic enforcement.
The department's announcement, however, sparked concerns that the drones could contribute to the creation of a "Big Brother"-esque surveillance state.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said the NYPD's drone policy doesn't do enough to balance public privacy concerns with "legitimate law enforcement needs."
In its own statement, meanwhile, the Legal Aid Society said that adding drones to the NYPD's "unregulated arsenal of surveillance tools" could disproportionately target communities of color and mark a "dangerous step towards the further militarization of the NYPD."
Chief of Department Terry Monahan, however, refuted that notion.
"Let me be clear: NYPD drones would not be used for surveillance, but to save lives and enhance response in emergency situations," he said.
More than 900 public safety agencies nationwide already use drones.