Cops Are Using Drones to Make Sure People Aren't Nude

The incident comes as the city voted this week to repeal an ordinance banning toplessness in parks.
A drone. via Pexels

Last Friday, cops in Minnesota flew a drone over a public beach to see if they could spot some exposed boobs—and then sent seven officers down to try to ticket topless sunbathers.

The local CBS Minnesota affiliate reported earlier this week that the Golden Valley Police Department used a drone to find people in the nude at Twin Lake, a public beach that's secluded but popular with locals who want to let it hang out a little.


Golden Valley Police Dept. Sgt. Randy Mahlen told CBS that the department has received more than a dozen complaints this year "regarding people being nude, drinking alcohol or doing drugs at the beach."

People who were at the beach that day described a calm day, until a drone appeared in the sky. "[We were] just chilling, enjoying a day of not doing community work, trying to relax at the beach," Kristian Calbert, a resident who was there, told local outlet NBC KARE 11. "We saw a drone go up. We didn't think anything of it because everyone has those now. Maybe ten minutes later, we hear, 'we think police are coming.'"

Seven officers from GVPD and Minneapolis Parks Police showed up and started approaching people at the beach while they were reading and sunbathing, according to people who were there. The officers started targeting Black people on the beach first, witnesses told CBS, and when the previously chilled-out beachgoers started getting hostile toward the police, the cops left the scene.

In a statement released yesterday, the city defended the police department's use of the drone, citing Covid-19 concerns, and that drones are used "to avoid having unnecessary face-to-face interactions between members of the public and officers" and drone data is "only used for documentation, evidence collection, and prosecution if needed" and deleted as soon as possible.

An ordinance from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board states that "no person ten [10] years of age or older shall intentionally expose his or her own genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breast below the top of the areola, with less than a fully opaque covering in or upon any park or parkway." But the ordinance has been criticized for discriminating against women and transgender people, and on Wednesday, the board approved a measure to repeal the ordinance, allowing anyone to be topless on city park property without being ticketed.

"It's ridiculous when I turn around and there's a gentleman who has boobs that are as big as, or bigger than mine," Calbert said. "And he can keep his shirt off and we're doing the same thing, sitting in the sun. I'm like you say it's a sexual organ but it's not. We're not sexualizing it."

Regardless of legality, calling the cops on your neighbors for being high with their tiddies out on a hidden beach is a really, really senseless reason to bring law enforcement into your community. The fact that the police department—especially around Minnesota, one of the cities at the center of protests against police brutality this year—would break out the most over-the-top means of surveillance and enforcement they could, shouldn't be surprising.