ACLU Comment on City of Baltimore Terminating Aerial Surveillance Program Contract

February 3, 2021 2:00 pm

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BALTIMORE — The city of Baltimore voted today to terminate its contract with Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), formally ending its aerial surveillance program, which put the daytime movements of virtually all Baltimore residents under surveillance. The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Maryland filed a lawsuit and subsequent appeal requesting the court temporarily block the Baltimore Police Department from deploying and conducting a six month trial of the aerial surveillance program.

The following is comment from:

Brett Max Kaufman, senior staff attorney with the ACLU:

“Baltimore’s termination of its unconstitutional spy plane program is a hard-fought victory for all Baltimoreans, especially for the Black leaders who challenged this and the communities of color who are disproportionately targeted by this surveillance. This decision is a long-overdue recognition that this kind of all-seeing surveillance technology has no place in our cities.”

David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Maryland:

“While we applaud Mayor Scott’s decision to abandon this unique threat to privacy, the City Solicitor’s comments make clear that today’s decision is in part a gambit to avoid further judicial review of the program. The law is clear that the city can’t intentionally duck accountability by suddenly bailing on its years-long defense of this technology on the eve of next month’s appeals court hearing. We plan to ensure that the case is heard, and this program declared unconstitutional, before the full Fourth Circuit next month.”

This case is still pending. The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for rehearing en banc and oral arguments are scheduled before the full Fourth Circuit on March 8th.

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