Davis defends police aerial surveillance program

By Kayla Henard
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis defended the department’s once secret aerial surveillance program on Tuesday, saying it has helped police solve homicides, non-fatal shootings and robberies.

Davis and his colleagues updated the Baltimore City Council’s public safety committee regarding the aerial surveillance of the city, assuring the committee that the pilot program’s 300 hours of service ending in October went to the greater good of Baltimore.

“This pilot opportunity was made readily available to us,” Davis said. “We did it because we wanted to find creative and innovative policing strategies to bring justice to members of the community who have lost loved ones.”

Council member Brandon Scott, of the second district, addressed the BCPD with his disappointment in the project’s launch, stating that the council and the public should have been informed of its existence from its start at the beginning of 2016.

David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said the program’s true objectives should be doubted. He said it raised Fourth Amendment questions.

“It is clear the surveillance has not necessarily been used to solve murders but to mostly follow people on dirt bikes and aide in other routine low level crimes,” Rocah said during the meeting. “This should not be grounds for the citizens of Baltimore to be under 24-hour surveillance and subject to search and seizure without a warrant.”

Council member Eric Costello, of the 11th district, voiced his reservations on the initial conduct of the program but said it has been used to aid in crime fighting for Baltimore.

Davis fully backed the program, saying the only thing he would have done differently was initiate it sooner.

“We live in one of the most violent cities per capita in our nation,” Davis said. “About 80 percent of our city’s murders occur outdoors in a public setting and this aerial surveillance technology has the ability to help solve these violent crimes.”

Davis assured the council that there will be an after-action critique of the program with an analysis of how the surveillance benefited the city and a report will be available by the end of this calendar year.

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