When the police in Dayton, Ohio presented a proposal to use persistent aerial surveillance, community members strenuously objected, and the city's political leaders dropped their attempt. But because of the secrecy in Baltimore, residents there never had that chance.
It is all the worse given the Department of Justice’s recent scathing report of rampant, long-running and pervasive racial bias in the Baltimore Police Department and an almost total lack of accountability for wrongdoing.
The Baltimore program, Businessweek reports, has been funded by a private Texas philanthropist. As we so often see with surveillance technologies, from license scanners to Stingrays to drones, this outside grant functioned to short-circuit democracy, because it meant the police did not need to bring a funding request to the city council or other elected officials, who might have brought up the significant values questions that this technology raises, and asked what checks and balances were in place to govern such a powerful surveillance system.