A federal judge has ruled that the Baltimore Police Department’s plan to conduct daily aerial surveillance does not violate the privacy rights of its citizens, despite extensive concerns for their civil liberties…
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett wrote, “Images produced by the AIR pilot program will only depict individuals as minuscule dots moving about a city landscape… The movement of these dots cannot be tracked without significant labor.”
He claimed the program does not violate Americans First or Fourth Amendment rights, and his approval, combined with the city’s approval, means the program could launch as early as next week.
The Baltimore Police Department initially announced plans for an aerial surveillance pilot program in which three plane equipped with cameras would fly over the city. They would collect one image per second, and they would stay in the air for 12 hours per day. The department claimed the planes would be used to help investigate murders, nonfatal shootings, and armed robberies. But their surveillance would cover around 90 percent of the city.
The ACLU is arguing that such a program would have endless unintended consequences. While it may help to capture a robbery suspect, it could also give the police department thousands of images of you and your family in your backyard, violating your reasonable right to privacy, and then using that footage against you if they did not approve of what you were doing.
In the lawsuit, they argued the program would “put into place the most wide-reaching surveillance dragnet ever employed in an American city,” giving Baltimore Police a “virtual, visual time machine whose grasp no person can escape.”
The lawsuit argued that such a surveillance program would create an all-seeing “eye in the sky” that has the ability to watch every American.
The Baltimore Police actually employed the same aerial surveillance program back in 2016, but they just decided not to tell anyone. They took a step back following widespread complaints. Now they are trying a different approach, but we have seen numerous lawsuits filed against the department in recent years.
One of the most egregious examples was Baltimore’s elite gun trace task force, which was praised for getting guns off the streets—until their officers were caught trafficking drugs, conducting illegal searches, stealing cash and property, running a racketeering scheme, and planting evidence, all while the city’s homicide rate skyrocketed.
So there is concern about giving the Baltimore Police department more unchecked power, and there is also concern that when the aerial surveillance is implemented, the city could be used as a blueprint for the country.