Politics & Business

ACLU sues Baltimore Police Department to stop ‘spy plane’ aerial surveillance program

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison presents information about the Aerial Investigative Research pilot program, also known locally as the “spy plane,” on March 30. Photo via Facebook Live.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Maryland on Thursday sued the Baltimore Police Department to stop an aerial surveillance plane to monitor Baltimore from above.

The department is planning to launch its “Aerial Investigative Research” pilot program, also known locally as the “spy plane,” during a 120- to 180-day trial run starting in May.

The ACLU of Maryland, its national organization and community advocates all said during a virtual press briefing on Thursday that the aerial surveillance plane would violate Baltimoreans’ privacy and erode trust between police and community members.

Sneed calls for moratorium on water bills for 180 days


City Councilwoman Shannon Sneed called on Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young to place a moratorium on collecting money for water and sewer service as Baltimoreans struggle with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter sent to the mayor today, Sneed (13th District) pointed to the more than 15,000 residents who have already filed for unemployment and small business owners who have seen sales decline or had to shut down altogether.

“Baltimoreans need water bill relief now,” Sneed wrote. “We ask that you relieve residents of water bill payments immediately to help combat this economic devastation head on.”

‘They feel like sitting ducks.’ Coalition calls for state to reduce number of inmates amid pandemic

An overhead view of the Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup. Photo via Maryland DPSCS.

The ACLU of Maryland and the Office of the Public Defender are each petitioning the Maryland Court of Appeals to direct state officials to reduce the number of people in Maryland’s jails and prisons and improve conditions for the inmates who remain to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Both organizations, along with a coalition of public health experts and criminal justice reform advocates, are also urging Gov. Larry Hogan to take immediate steps that they say will reduce the risk of incarcerated people contracting COVID-19.

Those steps include ceasing new admissions to the state’s correctional facilities; releasing incarcerated people who can be “safely released to their communities,” with priority for “the most medically vulnerable” people in the system; releasing incarcerated children; supporting people who are released with services, health care and housing; and conducting health screenings and providing hygiene products to inmates.

Maryland begins reporting COVID-19 cases by race, state confirms more than 6,100 total cases

This is a picture of CDC’s laboratory test kit for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). CDC tests are provided to U.S. state and local public health laboratories, Department of Defense (DOD) laboratories and select international laboratories. Photo courtesy of CDC.

Black people comprise a plurality of Maryland’s confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, as the state began reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths by race on Thursday.

At least 6,185 Marylanders have tested positive for COVID-19, while 35,344 have tested negative as of Thursday morning, state officials said. The state’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 656.

A total of 138 Marylanders have died from COVID-19, with 14 additional deaths since Wednesday, according to Kata D. Hall, deputy communications director for Gov. Larry Hogan.

OIG: Two former city employees charged in theft of equipment

Photo by Wally Gobetz, via Flickr

Two former city employees were criminally charged after a joint investigation allegedly found them trying to sell stolen city-owned heavy equipment, according to a new report from the Office of the Inspector General.

The investigation by the OIG and local law enforcement’s Regional Auto Theft Task Force targeted the individuals after the city watchdog received a complaint about stolen machinery.

Programs adapt to feed hungry in Maryland during pandemic

Real Food for Kids partnered with The Silver Diner at the Rio Shopping Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to provide free meals since schools have closed and students have to pick up meals instead of receiving them during school hours. (Photo courtesy of Jenn Yates with Real Food for Kids.)

By Hugh Garbrick
Capital News Service

OLNEY — Government programs, food banks and nonprofit organizations aiding people who struggle to put food on the table have had to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, and they say stress levels have moved beyond typical levels.

As more Marylanders encounter food insecurity, schools, nonprofits and others must figure out a way to get more food to more people, but with less staff and safety concerns hampering their ability to do so.

Needy families to receive 500K diapers during pandemic

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Through a new partnership, 10,000 needy families in the city will receive half a million diapers over the next two months, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced today.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said the partnership will begin April 9, and local organizations will distribute the diapers.

Dzirasa said the demand at local nonprofits for diapers has surged since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maryland COVID-19 total jumps by more than 1,100 confirmed cases in one day as labs catch up with backlogged tests, Hogan says

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depicts the exterior structure of the coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19. Image courtesy of CDC.

The number of Marylanders who have tested positive for COVID-19 jumped by 1,158 on Wednesday–by far the state’s largest one-day increase to date.

Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday tweeted the dramatic rise in cases is due to an increased number of infections, but also due to the state’s increasing capacity to administer and process COVID-19 tests.

Hogan said that more than 30 percent of the new cases reported today are from testing that was conducted in March, as commercial laboratories are beginning to clear their backlog of tests.

City hopes to have coronavirus testing site at Pimlico ready by end of week

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa provides updates about the city’s response to COVID-19 on Tuesday. Photo via Facebook Live.

Baltimore City hopes to open a coronavirus testing site in the parking lot of Pimlico Race Course by the end of this week, city officials said Tuesday.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the site is just waiting to receive testing kits.

Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said LifeBridge Health will be providing some of the clinical support for the site, and the Maryland Department of Health will be providing tests.

Hogan announces teams to treat nursing homes, says racial breakdown will be included in data

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a field hospital in the Baltimore Convention Center. Image via Facebook Live.

With cases of coronavirus in 90 nursing homes across Maryland, the state government is creating “strike teams” made up of local and state health officials, members of the Maryland National Guard and health care providers who can test and treat seniors on-site, Gov. Larry Hogan announced today.