By: Elizabeth Hays
For the past few months, the Baltimore Police Department, pressured to find a new way to reduce crime, conducted a secret aerial surveillance program over the city. The police recorded over 300 hours of surveillance, which covered approximately 32 square miles each flight. The Police commissioner and the mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, knew about the surveillance program from the beginning.
Maryland lawmakers and the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) are now considering legislation that would regulate police surveillance programs. The legislation would prevent the police department from acquiring new surveillance technology without public approval. Although the resolution on the cameras is too low to identify particular individuals, it can be used to track individuals and vehicles from crime scenes. The ACLU as well as other critics voiced concerns about possible Fourth Amendment violations. In fact, the footage from the plane was used to track down the suspects accused of killing two elderly siblings back in February. However, the police did not refer to the aerial surveillance in charging documents that were presented in court. Although this may be a benefit for law enforcement, citizens’ civil rights must be protected throughout this process. While the plane is not currently conducting surveillance, the police state that it might be used later during the Baltimore Running Festival in mid-October. The future legislation regarding this matter could result in an impact on anything where the police have cameras that view the public, such as body cameras, CCTV cameras, or even dash cameras.
Elizabeth Hays is a third-year day student at the University of Baltimore. She serves as a Staff Editor of the UB Law Forum and is Co-president of UBSPI. Her legal interests include, administrative and military law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org