Police Secretly Put Large Part of Baltimore Under Constant Aerial Video Surveillance

Technology Was Developed for U.S. Military in Iraq

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
August 24, 2016 2:45 pm

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BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Police Department has secretly deployed a surveillance system using planes and powerful cameras that can continuously record 30-square-mile sections of the city at once, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The technology, which is run by a private company, was originally developed for the Defense Department for use in Iraq. It stores the video footage for an undetermined amount of time, and police can use it to retroactively track any pedestrian or vehicle within the surveillance area.

David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, had this reaction:

“The fact that the BPD has been engaged in a secret program of mass surveillance is both incomprehensible and unacceptable. It is even more astounding that this could be done during a Justice Department investigation into the BPD that found pervasive racial bias and lack of accountability.

“The surveillance program itself is a privacy nightmare come to life and precisely what we have warned against for years. It’s the equivalent of requiring each of us to wear a GPS tracker whenever we leave our homes, something that would never be tolerated in the physical world.

“This is yet another example of battlefield technology moving to domestic law enforcement without public scrutiny — but Baltimore is not a battlefield, and its residents are not the enemy. The BPD should immediately discontinue its use of the technology, and the City Council should immediately hold hearings to prevent it from ever being adopted. The council should also require public input before any new surveillance technologies are deployed.”

An in-depth blog post with additional analysis is here:


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