Numerous police departments and SWAT teams responded on July 4, 2022, to the area of Second Street and Central Avenue in Highland Park following a mass shooting at a parade that left dozens of people injured and seven dead. | Photo: North Shore Updates

Lawmakers have passed legislation that will allow law enforcement to use drones to monitor large events following the mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.

The Drones as First Responders Act passed the Illinois General Assembly to allow police agencies to use drones to monitor large special events, like parades and festivals.

State Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Lake Forest, was a co-sponsor of House Bill 3902.

She was inspired after last year’s Highland Park July 4 mass shooting. Morrison and her family were riding in the parade when shots rang out.

“Drones provide an invaluable resource that can be used to monitor large crowds for suspicious activity,” Morrison said. “This technology exists – there’s no reason we shouldn’t put it in the hands of law enforcement.”

The Fourth of July mass shooting killed seven and wounded dozens more in Highland Park.

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The shooter fired a rifle at the parade crowd from the rooftop of a downtown building.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering hailed the legislation, saying that allowing law enforcement to use drones to monitor large-scale events will “increase their ability to secure an area, and save time while improving the delivery of life-saving services.”

Ed Yohnka, communications director for the ACLU of Illinois, said they were initially opposed to the idea until restrictions on what events were included.

“This was a modest step, which gives us an opportunity to look at this data, to look at what gets reported, and to see where we are after it’s been in effect for some period of time,” Yohnka told The Center Square.

Police are not allowed to use drones at political protests, demonstrations or other First Amendment-protected gatherings.

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Another stipulation of the legislation is that the footage must be erased within 24 hours unless a crime is captured.

Police agencies also must publicly post their drone program usage at least 24 hours in advance.

State Rep. Dan Swanson, R-Alpha, said the drones could be handy with downstate police agencies.

“Possibly in a pursuit, on foot or in a car, something like that, especially for us in rural areas where we don’t always have police protection,” Swanson said.

The bill now heads to the governor for this signature.

Lake and McHenry County Scanner and The Center Square both contributed to this report.