Federal Judge Sides with City, Rejects ACLU Lawsuit to Stop Surveillance Plane

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A federal judge ruled against the ACLU in a lawsuit seeking to stop the Baltimore City Police Department from using aerial surveillance to assist with criminal investigations. 

The Baltimore City Police Department may move forward with a pilot program to have a surveillance plane take pictures of the city to help detectives investigate past murders, shootings, and armed robberies. The program is expected to begin this week.

The ACLU filed an injunction in federal court to stop the program arguing that it violates the privacy of residents under the first and fourth amendments. The judge did not agree with those arguments.

WMAR 2 Baltimore reports:

“Images produced by the AIR pilot program will only depict individuals as minuscule dots moving about a city landscape,” said U.S. District Court Judge, Richard Bennett. “This limited form of aerial surveillance does not constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment, nor does it burden First Amendment speech activities.”

The article notes the judge based his decision in part on the high level of crimes in the city. The ACLU plans to appeal the ruling.

Earlier this month, by a 3-2 vote the Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved a contract for a six-month pilot of a surveillance plane. The pilot is being funded by Arnold Ventures.

For more information:

Federal Judge gives go ahead to BPD surveillance plane program (WMAR 2 Baltimore)

Prior coverage from Conduit Street:

City Moves Forward With Surveillance Plane Pilot Program

City’s Board of Estimates Delays Approval of Surveillance Plane