As of yesterday, the Baltimore Police Department’s privately funded secret surveillance program is no longer quite so secret. Reactions have been… mixed, to say the least.
The BPD itself took a “nothing to see here” stance, pointing out that there are already 700 privately owned security cameras throughout the city that police already have access to. The surveillance Cessna is just that… but better! And if you think about it, the only reason you’d be so upset about being spied on all the time is if you’re a bad person: “The only people that should be concerned in the city of Baltimore are criminals,” according to BPD spokesman T.J. Smith.
In her statement, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake pointed out that the technology has been used to solve crimes, and that she “look[s] forward to a more complete report on the program and the empirical data on its results so far.” (The surveillance flights are scheduled to continue for the next few weeks before the city evaluates their effectiveness and decides whether or not to continue with the program.)
And then there are the right-wing Texans who provided key funding for the program, who are suddenly very concerned about privacy: “As a society, we should seek to understand whether these technologies yield significant benefits, while carefully weighing any such benefits against corresponding tradeoffs to privacy.”
But not everyone was so blase. “I’m angry that I didn’t know about it and we did it in secrecy, which is unacceptable,” City Councilman Brandon Scott told the Baltimore Sun. “We have to be transparent about it and we have to make sure that we’re using it in the right way, especially given all of the things that have come out about the Police Department.”