BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Cities across the country are demanding more oversight over police surveillance programs. This comes after national backlash over the discovery of a so-called secret one being used by police in Baltimore.
For months, it was the eye in the sky no one knew a thing about — a privately funded, undisclosed surveillance program used by Baltimore City police.
Bloomberg Business exposed the program that police insist was never meant to be a secret.
“Secrecy is your word, it’s not a secret. We’re talking about it,” said T.J. Smith, Baltimore City Police Department.
The issue brought Baltimore’s policing tactics again into the national spotlight.
WJZ sat down with Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis following the public backlash. He said the plan was to reveal the program when the time was right.
“With a great degree of thoughtfulness, do I wish we had an opportunity to do that before the story broke? Of course,” Comm. Davis said.
“Let us decide on whether we want this type of invasion or not,” one woman said.
Now, 11 cities across the U.S. are coming together with help from the American Civil Liberties Union to ensure it’s never an issue again.
“What we have to be asking is what to do the communities themselves–who are the subject of this surveillance–think. They should be the ones who are deciding what is and isn’t appropriate for their communities,” said Chad Marlow, ACLU.
Together, lawmakers and advocacy groups want to pass new laws that give the public a direct say over when, where and who pays for the program going forward.
ACLU officials tell WJZ these 11 cities are just the beginning. They are confident more cities will follow suit, including Baltimore.
“Everybody agrees on the basic principles of this, which is open government is the best government,” said Marlow.
ACLU officials tell WJZ based on what they’ve seen, there’s also growing concern these programs are unfairly targeting certain groups and neighborhoods nationwide.
According to our media partner, The Baltimore Sun, the local ACLU is working with state leaders to pass a police surveillance law in the next General Assembly.