BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Maryland filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Baltimore Police Department, challenging the constitutionality of a wide-area aerial surveillance program.
Baltimore’s police commissioner Michael Harrison announced the new pilot program in December 2019, where three surveillance planes will be flying over the city starting in May to test whether they can cut down on violence.
The ACLU argues in the lawsuit the surveillance system could present a threat to citizen’s individual rights to privacy, under the First and Fourth Amendment. Its legal team is seeking an injunction blocking the program. It was filed on the behalf of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a think tank that “advances the public policy of the interests of Black people in Baltimore,”
“Putting residents under continuous, aerial surveillance will impact the privacy rights of everyone, but it is especially dangerous for Black and Brown communities. Baltimore is a city with a terrible history of racism and lack of accountability for abuses by police. It’s the last place a novel system of mass surveillance should be tested.” said David Rocah, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland.
This case was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
The Baltimore City Board of Estimates voted in favor of a contract to launch the program in the city between BPD and Persistent Surveillance Systems. The planes will take video of 90 percent of the city.
A surveillance plane was in Baltimore skies in 2016, angering local officials because it had been flown in secret.
The ACLU also spoke out about privacy concerns.
During its brief run, the plane was able to solve the high-profile shooting case of elderly siblings shot in Walbrook.