ACLU and Community Group Challenge Secret Baltimore Police Fund for "Clandestine" Operations

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
June 21, 2001 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Maryland
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


BALTIMORE–The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland today filed a lawsuit seeking to uncover how a secret $250,000 fund for high-tech surveillance equipment is being spent by local police.

“At a time when Baltimore City residents are facing a 20 percent income tax increase and across-the-board reductions for non-police services, the public must know what budget choices city officials are making,”” said ACLU of Maryland attorney Dwight Sullivan. “”The public also has a right to know what types of surveillance equipment the government is purchasing to monitor citizens.””

The lawsuit seeks a court order directing city and police officials to reveal records documenting expenditures from the fund.

The ACLU acted on behalf of Viva House, a Catholic Workers community dedicated to helping the poor. The group runs a food kitchen, a food pantry, an after school program, and a summer camp; it does not receive or seek government funding.

The case arises from the Baltimore Board of Estimates’ approval of a $250,000 fund for “”clandestine”” police operations. The Board approved the fund at its January 10, 2001 meeting. Brendan Walsh of Viva House then filed requests under the Maryland Public Information Act to require the Police Department and the City Finance Director to reveal how the $250,000 is being spent. The requests were denied.

Walsh said taxpayers should know how their money is spent, especially because so many crumbling city neighborhoods desperately need funding. Two libraries in the low-income neighborhood Viva House serves recently closed their doors due to lack of funds, he noted.

“The Mayor wants to give the police whatever they want and the rest of the city has to go begging,” Walsh said. “It seems to me the only people in the city who get money is the police.” Last year, according to news reports, violent crime rates in the city went down, with homicides falling below 300 in a year for the first time in more than a decade.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release