Minnesota police use drone to check for nudity at lake beach


MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO) – Authorities in a Minnesota community are facing criticism after they used a drone to crack down on nudity at a popular beach.

The serenity on this somewhat hidden beach at Twin Lake is what draws visitors – along with an understanding of sorts that many freely bare their bodies.

“It’s really well known for being a safe place to just be comfortable,” said Elsie Olin.

However, when Olin was there last Friday, that freedom of expression wasn’t free from consequence, as officers began taking information to potentially cite people for being topless or nude.

“It had reached a point where it was time for people to be held accountable for their actions,” said Detective Sgt. Randy Mahlen with the Valley Police Department.

Mahlen said they’ve 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 beach-goers on the laws and gave warnings, but repeated complaints led to Friday’s enforcement.

“At that point, everyone was fully clothed. We had our tops on, there was no indecent exposure,” said Olin.

However, officers said people were caught in the act thanks to their drone that was surveying the beach from afar.

Golden Valley Police Department has trained drone pilots. The surveillance was legal since the beach was a public place.

“What it did was validate all these complaints we’ve been getting from residents,” said Mahlen.

“It makes you feel uncomfortable to just think like, oh, how often am I being watched? And what kind of authority is going on here,” said Paula Chesley.

Beachgoers that day also felt officers targeted certain people.

“The two or three black people that were super visible on the beach, they went straight for them,” said Olin.

Sgt. Mahlen said officers were prepared to take information from several people who had been topless or nude, but that hostility from the crowd changed their plans.

“We made the choice that things were only escalating, and we chose to leave,” he said.

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