BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is opening up to WJZ’s Mike Hellgren about the revelation of a controversial aerial surveillance program over Baltimore, and the harsh criticism it continues to get.
“To send a message to the killers in this city that you just can’t walk up to someone in broad daylight in the middle of the damn street and blow their head off,” said Comm. Davis.
Davis explains to WJZ why he allowed a private contractor to use a plane with a powerful surveillance system to take videos of wide swaths of Baltimore and record them for use in solving crimes. The surveillance has alarmed privacy advocates.
“We had a media strategy, we had a strategy to have conversations with elected officials in the community at large about this, and then the Bloomberg article appeared. So, in hindsight, 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.
Some 300-hours of video were beamed from the sky to a small office above a parking garage behind Power Plant Live! and next to police headquarters, where workers from a private company would sift through them.
It’s not the first surveillance program to draw scrutiny — the FBI conducted its own flights over Baltimore, and police used “stingray” devices to track suspect’s cell phones.
But the backlash this time has been fierce, with a Baltimore Sun editorial saying it “…makes us seriously question the judgment of Commissioner Kevin Davis.”
“We’re not tone deaf to the conversations about transparency, or lack thereof. Now, coincidentally, we also think we’re one of the most transparent police departments in the country right now,” said Davis.
“It wasn’t a secret. It wasn’t something that we were intentionally keeping anybody in the dark about,. We wanted to see if this technology worked,” he added.
The commissioner says a majority of Baltimore murders occur outdoors and outside, and that he hopes the surveillance can help boost the high number of unsolved killings in the city.