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The VICE Guide to Right Now

Baltimore Cops Have Been Secretly Watching Citizens from the Sky

Police decided not to tell anybody about the military-grade technology keeping tabs on Baltimore.

by VICE Staff
Aug 24 2016, 5:41pm

The Baltimore Police Department has apparently been running an aerial-surveillance program since January that includes technology deployed as part of George W. Bush's "surge" of US forces in Iraq in 2007.

According to a report published Tuesday by Bloomberg, the police department launched a privately funded surveillance program at the beginning of 2016 and kept careful watch on Baltimore without telling the public about the eyes in the skies. Using a small airplane equipped with high-tech cameras, the department was able to monitor about 30 square miles of the city.

The military-grade technology, designed by Ohio-based company Persistent Surveillance Systems, was evidently used to help track suspects who committed serious crimes, though its low resolution makes ID'ing people rather difficult. Police leaned on the tech particularly during the aftermath of the Freddie Gray trials, which resulted in no criminal convictions for any of the cops involved and no major unrest.

News of the program's existence follows the release earlier this month of scathing Department of Justice investigation into Baltimore police. The feds found that officers routinely violated black residents' rights and intruded on their lives, and treated many sexual assault victims with incredible callousness.

The surveillance regime was not covered in that report.

Photo via Flickr user Lee Burchfield

Read: The Long Road to Police Reform in Baltimore

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