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Editorial Advisory Board: Stop aerial surveillance program

It has been reported that Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison agreed to support surveillance flights over Baltimore only to allow the resulting data to inform us whether the program will work or not. He added that his support is “not because we have any belief that it will work.” Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young voted in favor of the flights without comment. City Council President Brandon Scott and Comptroller Joan Pratt voted against the flights.

The ACLU of Maryland called the program “the technological equivalent of having the Baltimore Police Department follow every man, woman and child every time they go out the door.” Others, including the NAACP, questioned the constitutionality of this program, and a few years back this board called for the attorney general to issue an opinion on the constitutionality of these flights. Now the City Solicitor’s Office has opined that the proposal is constitutional, but to our knowledge it has not released its opinion.

Last week, the ACLU sued the Baltimore Police Department to stop the May launch of this program. The ACLU claims the program will violate privacy and erode community trust in the Baltimore Police Department, a commodity in very short supply these days.

While Harrison said the footage taken during the trial period would be used to investigate murders, nonfatal shootings and other violent crimes, the commissioner admitted that, while using prior aerial surveillance film footage, “I think there was only one crime of violence that arrived at some solvability.”

The results hardly appear to warrant the intrusion on the constitutional rights of Baltimore residents, and we call on the mayor to shut down this program. Or, at the very least, the city should waive its attorney-client privilege and require the City Solicitor’s Office to publish its opinion that the flights pass constitutional muster.


James B. Astrachan, Chair

James K. Archibald

Arthur F. Fergenson

Nancy Forster

Susan Francis

Leigh Goodmark

Michael Hayes

James Haynes

Ericka N. King

Stephen Z. Meehan

C. William Michaels

Angela W. Russell

Debra G. Schubert

H. Mark Stichel

Vanessa Vescio (on leave)

The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.