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Police in Minnesota are Using Drones. To Catch Naked Sun Bathers.

Source - Visitors at a Twin Cities beach learned police watch them in ways they didn’t expect.

The Golden Valley Police Department used a drone to catch beachgoers breaking the law by going topless or nude at Twin Lake, just west of Theodore Wirth Park.

The serenity on the somewhat hidden beach is what draws visitors, along with an understanding of sorts that many freely bare their body. ...

[On] Friday, July 10, that freedom of expression wasn’t free from consequence as officers began taking information from people to potentially cite them for being topless or nude.

Golden Valley Police Det. Sgt. Randy Mahlen says something had to be done.

“It had reached the point where it was time for people to be held accountable for their actions,” Mahlen said.

He said they have received more than a dozen complaints this spring and summer regarding people being nude, drinking alcohol or doing drugs at the beach. Over the past weeks, he said officers strictly educated beachgoers on the laws and gave warnings. But repeated complaints led to Friday’s enforcement. It included seven officers from GVPD and Minneapolis Parks Police. ...

Mahlen said people were caught in the act thanks to their drone that was surveying the beach from afar. GVPD has officers who are trained drone pilots. They use the flying camera for several types of surveillance or police activity. The surveillance at the beach was legal since it’s a public place.

“What it did was validate all of these complaints we’ve been getting from residents,” Mahlen said. “It would be no different than a surveillance camera in a public place for a high-crime area.” 

As someone who has been largely supportive of law enforcement my whole life, with friends and relatives who serve in different branches of local, state and federal agencies, but who is also totally on board with the need for fundamental reforms and consistent standards across the country, I'm going to go right ahead and respectfully suggest this is NOT the best use of the Golden Valley Police Department's time and resources. 

And at the risk of sounding like I'm both-sidesing this, I'm not in favor of nude sunbathing in non-nude sunbathing areas. I fully respect the rights of people to hit the swimming lakes of Minnesota without being subjected to some stranger's flaccid dong flopping all over the place. I've never been do a nude beach per se. But I've been to resorts in the Caribbean that had no rules against it. And I made the mistake once of taking my family to the National Seashore on Cape Cod where we set up camp adjacent to the nude section. And as a general rule I discovered that the people who go Sun's Out, Buns Out, are by and large the last people who's funny business you want to see. So I can appreciate why someone showing up for a little fresh water funtivity would call 911 at the first sign of genitalia. 

That said, Det. Sgt. Randy Mahlen and his department have to recognize what a terrible, terrible look this is. The Minneapolis City Council just voted to defund the city's police department. There's a huge debate raging about the nature and even the necessity of law enforcement. Elected officials are seriously discussing what society would be like without you. Major sections of Minneapolis look like a bombed out European city in 1945. Others have no police presence. This is hardly the time to be forming an elite seven-man Anti-Bareass Task Force and assign your most highly trained drone pilots to the cause.

No matter how legal and legitimate the surveillance is, you've got to be self-aware enough to realize how this looks from the outside. How it immediately conjures up a mental picture of every cop in the station house sitting around a monitor looking for the best video of the nudest hotties. Like that time Vic Mackey's Strike Team slipped a hidden camera into Dutch's car to watch one his blind date go horribly, horribly wrong. 

So please, on behalf of a weary, tense, mentally exhausted nation, I beg you. Get your priorities in order. Disband this little Mission: Impossible team of crack tittay investigators and reassign them and their high tech equipment to protecting people from getting robbed or victimized by violence. And everybody else at the lakes, keep your fucking pants on. For the good of everyone.