Why Some Baltimore Residents are Lobbying to Bring Back Aerial Surveillance

There is so much in this article. Aerial surveillance that could be linked with 911 calls and city-wide cameras (though concentrated in some areas more than others), ongoing corruption in the Baltimore Police Department, the fact that footage from the previous drone surveillance of Baltimore was made available to car insurance companies, more.

Basically a community group is hoping that drone surveillance would help solve crimes that police aren’t solving otherwise and capture police brutality. I see lots of holes in both arguments and am curious what anyone here thinks.

Wow, this article is really incredible. It’s certainly understandable why these residents are pushing for aerial surveillance – they’re desperate to do something about all the violence. But @sjbrown, you rightly point out some of the unintended consequences, and it’s not even clear that aerial surveillance to prevent the violence anyway. A few more thoughts I had while reading:

  • If the police are so corrupt, how can residents even trust them to make the right decisions with regard to this surveillance footage?
  • Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), the company making the system, previously equipped military planes in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is always a connection between domestic surveillance and military surveillance. it always comes home.
  • PSS and the Baltimore PD have not disclosed how much this data has been used to make arrests. How curious.
  • Oh, and the police wanted to keep the program a secret from residents. Also curious.
  • There’s a lot in here from the pro-side about how aerial surveillance prevents discrimination, like racial profiling, but that’s just not true – the police can opt to only follow those little people dots through black and brown neighborhoods, for example.
  • This line, I mean wow. How can you trust this PD with even MORE evidence to tamper with?:

Baltimore’s police department is paying more than $18 million for body cameras, but police routinely shut them off and unabashedly continued to plant and fabricate evidence.

  • The anti-aerial surveillance locals they interviewed did an excellent job of debunking this whole thing. For example, from Out for Justice Baltimore:

“We know that on-the-ground policing has a disproportionate impact on black and brown communities, so why would this police tactic be any different?”

  • Wow, okay so, the involvement of the Arnolds is reason enough to oppose this. I’m talking about this quote:

The $360,000 bill to PSS for its 90-day trial-run in Baltimore was footed by the personal estate of Laura and John Arnold, according to McNutt (John Arnold, a Texas resident, earned his multi-million dollar fortune as a natural gas hedge fund manager).

  • John and Laura Arnold made their billions from Enron. Enron!!! And also natural gas markets. These same billionaires funded a risk asessment tool here in Houston that is supposed to determine whether or not people should be considered for cash bail (bad) or a personal recognizance bond (good). They spent millions on this assessment tool when the country is moving towards policy implementations to eliminate cash bail entirely (which Houston later did for misdemeanors). I am so suspicious of them because to me this always seemed like a big data grab. Funding an aerial surveillance company seems to be more of the same.

Anyway, I will stop going on and on about this article. Thanks for sharing it @sjbrown. I wonder if this presents an opportunity for a public conversation about drone surveillance, crime prevention, and privacy, facilitated by the library???

Exactly. Basically with anything at this point. (This isn’t a surveillance issue, but the latest with BPD is a report claiming that a cop who was about to testify in a federal corruption case committed suicide. People are having trouble buying that.)

Yes, I was really glad to see that they interviewed people/groups who had their info down. The article could have easily been slanted otherwise.

What I’d heard about them sounded shady, so it’s helpful to have that confirmed. (I mean, anyone who wants to make some other city a test case for their pet technology is suspect, but beyond that.)

I love this idea but also recognize that programs like this (justice-focused stuff) haven’t done well at my library. The last one we had was with a local professor/activist who studies bias in policing, and only a few people came. Marketing the programs differently could help, but I’m wondering if the info/conversation would reach more people if it happened elsewhere. Part of my final project is going to be exploring this further.

have you reached out to local activists/groups like those quoted in this article? maybe you already have and it hasn’t gone anywhere, but if you haven’t that might be a way to create a collaborative program and spread the marketing out to their existing contact lists.