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BPD set to begin AIR pilot program on Friday

Posted at 10:29 AM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 17:21:03-04

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Police Department on Friday will roll out it's first flight of the Aerial Investigation Research Pilot Program.

Last week, a federal judge rejected a request by the ACLU and other groups, to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the plane from flying.

“Images produced by the AIR pilot program will only depict individuals as minuscule dots moving about a city landscape,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge, Richard Bennett. "This limited form of aerial surveillance does not constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment, nor does it burden First Amendment speech activities.”

The ACLU vowed to appeal the judge's ruling.

RELATED: Federal Judge gives go ahead to BPD surveillance plane program

Baltimore City's Board of Estimates approved the program in March by a 3-2 vote. Only City Council President Brandon Scott and Comptroller Joan Pratt voted against the program.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said safeguards and oversight have been put into place for the flying of the plane.

The pilot will last for 180 days, with the plane expected to fly 40 hours a week. It will focus solely on murders, non-fatal shootings, armed robberies, and carjackings, according to the department.

Independent researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of the program, while civilian auditors will ensure that the program is only being used for its intended purpose.

Data collected by the plane will only be used for criminal investigations. All other data that isn't analyzed will only be stored for 45 days.

“I take very seriously the utilization of every tool available to address the unacceptable levels of violence in our communities,” said Commissioner Michael Harrison. “I remain cautiously optimistic about the potential of this program and will allow the data to show us the efficacy of this technology as a potential tool for the Department in solving and reducing violent crime,”

As the judge cited in his ruling, the department hosted three community educational presentations, one in-person and two online, prior to launching the program.

To learn more about the program, click here.