Ask the residents of any major American city to vote on a program of total aerial surveillance––where the cops would record footage of everything that happened within municipal borders, then store the high-resolution video on hard drives, so that they could effectively go back in time, tracing the outdoor movements of any individual––and the proposal would, at the very least, trigger furious debate.
But what if the police didn’t ask permission? What if they began recording their city’s residents from above without even bothering to inform their elected overseers?
That is what the police in Baltimore have just done.
It is illegal, in Maryland, to record a phone call without informing the person on the other end. Yet Baltimore police have been using an eye in the sky to surveil the whole city for months on end, recording hi-resolution footage and storing it on hard drives so that the movements of residents can be accessed at any time in the future.
They began doing this in secret, with the help of a private company, launching the dystopian collaboration without even consulting Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
“The revelation that a private company has been conducting secret aerial surveillance on behalf of the police department caused confusion, concern and outrage Wednesday among elected officials,” The Baltimore Sun reported. “Some demanded an immediate stop to the program pending a full, public accounting of its capabilities and its use in the city, including in the prosecution of criminal defendants... Others did not fault the program but said it should have been disclosed.”