BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A federal appeals court rules Baltimore’s aerial surveillance program as unconstitutional.

The court’s ruling finds that the surveillance system violates the Fourth Amendment because “persistent surveillance of outdoor movements invades people’s reasonable expectation of privacy.” In addition, they added that “allowing the police to wield this power unchecked is anathema to the values enshrined in our Fourth Amendment.”

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“The court’s landmark ruling makes clear that the Constitution forbids police departments from deploying this kind of dystopian aerial surveillance,” said Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The AIR program’s technology presents a society-changing threat to everyone’s privacy, and as we’ve argued, the program never should have been permitted to get off the ground.”

The decision comes after a lawsuit was filed by a group of black activists in Baltimore. The lawsuit asked that the court temporarily block the Baltimore Police Department from deploying and conducting a six-month trial of the aerial surveillance program.

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Though the court heard the plaintiff’s appeal was heard after the six-month trial had ended, Baltimore Police continued to possess unlawfully acquired data. However, the court’s ruling will prohibit the police department from accessing and collecting the data acquired during the program.

Baltimore Police contracted Persistent Surveillance Systems to pilot the program. They flew planes that were equipped with wide-angle cameras throughout the city during the day. The department has stated that the program’s purpose was to assist in solving criminal investigations.

In February, Baltimore voted to adjust its contract with PSS but continued to hold a large amount of data collected unlawfully under the program.

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“This victory underscores how we cannot ignore Baltimore’s history of racism, exclusion, and police abuse of Black residents when deciding on programs and practices that are supposed to keep people safe. Hopefully, this invasive spy planes technology now will be stopped once and for all, not just here in Baltimore but across the country,” said David Rocah, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland.

CBS Baltimore Staff