Pugh needs to lead, not hide, on the issue of police reform.

Shame on me for being surprised by anything that comes out of a politician’s mouth, but I was flabbergasted at what I read in The Sun about the Democratic candidate for mayor of Baltimore, State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh.  Pugh stated that she intends to ask the Maryland General Assembly to amend state law in order to prevent the Baltimore chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) from blocking the appointment of civilians to the disciplinary hearing boards that adjudicate complaints against members of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD).  If she follows through on that intention she is being both disingenuous and gutless.

She is being disingenuous because she has been told in no uncertain terms that the General Assembly will do no such thing.  She is being gutless because she knows that the mayor and city council can and should solve the problem of the opposition of the FOP to civilian participation on their own without further help from the General Assembly.  She simply is unwilling to take on the task of getting the necessary legislation through the city council in the face of strong opposition from Lodge No. 3 of the FOP.

She does not want to do any political damage to herself but she does want it to appear as if she is trying to get civilians on hearing boards, something widely supported by the citizens of the city.  She wants credit for trying to get civilians on the boards but does not want to alienate the FOP in the process.  When her effort fails, as it surely will, she can blame the General Assembly.  Pugh hopes that her charade will fool the public.

Pugh stated that the FOP will be “unhappy” with her proposal.  Nonsense; they will be ecstatic because they know what she knows:  Her proposal is a non-starter with the General Assembly.  On the other hand a bill before the city council that accomplishes the same thing has a chance of actually passing because of the enormous public pressure that would be placed on the council to place civilians on hearing boards.  Pugh is doing the old political two-step with the FOP and it is disgraceful.  There is little that a public official can do that is more insulting to his or her constituents than trying to create the illusion of working on a problem without really doing so.  This is a prime example.

During the legislative session that ended in April the General Assembly made changes to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR) that will allow civilians to sit on police department hearing boards starting on October 1st.  What lawmakers did not do, however, was remove the manner of selection and composition of trial boards from the collective bargaining process; that remains a matter of local law.  It is up to each city or county to decide whether the composition of trial boards is subject to collective bargaining and members of the General Assembly have shown no inclination to change that.

Under Baltimore’s Municipal Labor Relations ordinance the composition of trial boards currently is subject to collective bargaining.  That could be changed by the city council, which has the power under the city charter to set forth by ordinance “management rights” that are not subject to collective bargaining. Pugh, however, wants the General Assembly to intervene and relieve the city of the burden of changing its own law.  It is the epitome of political cowardice.

State Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, the Senate committee that would have to approve the bill that Pugh wants.  Last month he told city leaders that they need to fix the problem with collective bargaining on their own, and that the General Assembly will not revisit the LEOBR next year in order to do the tough work for the city that the city is unwilling to do for itself in order to place civilians on hearing boards.  He undoubtedly was speaking with the blessing of the House and Senate leadership.  Zirkin, referring to the grousing by city officials about having to negotiate with the FOP over appointing civilians to hearing boards, told WBAL-TV:

“The city is going to have to deal with this. If they want to pass a law, City Council and the mayor can get together and do their thing for the city. They are going to have to do what they haven’t done before, which is, if this is important to them in the city, then they are going to have to tackle that issue.”

Zirkin is correct that the city can solve its own problem.  All that is necessary is an amendment to the city’s Municipal Labor Relations ordinance that provides that the establishment of the manner of selection and composition of hearing boards is an exclusive management right, removing the subject from collective bargaining.  The city council then could enact an ordinance that requires the Police Commissioner to appoint up to two voting or nonvoting civilian members to disciplinary hearing boards.  I pointed out this course of action in an op ed published by The Sun in July, although Pugh certainly was aware of it long before then.

Zirkin’s frustration with city officials was obvious during his interview with WBAL’s Jayne Miller.  Zirkin, however, is not the only state legislator frustrated with the attempts by city officials to palm their labor relations problem off on the General Assembly.  After the op ed referred to above was published I received an email from a prominent state legislator from the city thanking me for pointing out that the city had the power to deal with this matter itself.

Indeed, the view is widespread that elected city officials are unwilling to rein in the power of the FOP over the police department.  As Zirkin pointed out, it is something that they have failed to do in the past.  In an editorial published earlier this year the Daily Record stated that the Baltimore Police Department could not be reformed unless someone managed to “dismantle the police union’s grip on city government.”  The Daily Record editorial board was absolutely correct, although the comment was not exactly a revelation.

The damage done over time by the union’s grip on city government has been significant. For one thing the city’s inadequate labor relations ordinance allowed Lodge No. 3 of the FOP to become a behemoth, representing not only rank-and-file officers but also the sergeants and lieutenants who supervise them.  Of approximately 2,600 sworn officers all but about 50 belong to the same union, and that union is almost a parallel governance structure within the department competing with the Commissioner for control over the culture of the department.  Past city labor and police commissioners bargained away far too much control over the police disciplinary process and the city council did nothing to stop them, with disastrous results.  The list goes on, and it is not an encouraging track record.

When looked at from the perspective of race there is an unfortunate irony.  In an interview with CNN this summer former judge and veteran Baltimore attorney Billy Murphy laid much of the blame for allowing the problems in the BPD to fester over the years on the African-American officials who largely have been in control of the city for decades.  It is the African-American residents of the city who suffer most from abuses by officers of the BPD.  At the same time it is the elected officials at the level closest to those residents, mayors and members of the city council, who often have been the least willing to do their part to stand up to the FOP and reform the BPD.  Many of those officials of course also have been African-Americans.  I don’t understand it; I’m sure someone does.

I have had my doubts that Pugh is up to the task of wresting control of the BPD away from the FOP because of her strong ties to organized labor and in particular her history of aggressively supporting public employee unions during her time in Annapolis.  If this ploy is any indication those doubts soon will turn to despair.

Let’s hope that if Pugh is elected she will have some sort of epiphany and realize that she cannot appease the FOP and still do the job that needs to be done as mayor in the next four years to get the BPD on track.  If elected she needs to forget about asking the General Assembly to rescue her from the tough jobs.  She needs to send bills to the city council in December that remove the manner of selection and composition of hearing boards from collective bargaining and provide for the appointment of civilian members to those boards.  She needs to lead on the issue of police reform, not hide.

David A. Plymyer

 

 

Maryland black caucus wants black privilege for medical marijuana licenses.

The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland should abandon its plans to use “any means necessary” to halt the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission from issuing final licenses to grow and process medical marijuana in the state until more licenses are awarded to minority-owned businesses. The efforts by the black legislators to change the rules of the selection process after it has been completed are unjustified and racially divisive.

No African-American applicant was chosen as a finalist to receive a license out of 15 growers and 15 processors. The caucus calls that outcome unacceptable, threatening to file an injunction and to introduce legislation requiring the commission to scrap a process that took almost a year to complete.

Why is the outcome unacceptable? The commission selected the finalists on merit by scoring the applications on a series of criteria without knowing the identity or race of the applicants. It relied on a double-blind ranking system that it outsourced to the Regional Economic Studies Institute, known as RESI, at Towson University.

Although the law establishing the commission required it to consider geographic diversity in awarding the licenses, the Maryland Attorney General advised the commission it could not consider the race of the applicants. Deliberately selecting black applicants over applicants of other races with higher scores would violate the constitutional rights of the other applicants.

There is a basic compact between white and black people upon which racial harmony depends. Here is my idea of what it is, or at least should be: White people owe black people the same thing that they owe everyone else: Equality of opportunity and freedom from discrimination — a helping hand, a leg up, and a level playing field. In return, black people accept that they will succeed or fail on their own merit — like everyone else.

Bumping someone to the head of the line on the basis of race is not part of the bargain. There are circumstances when it may be legally justified, but this is not one of them. There has to be equal respect for the constitutional rights of people of all races for the deal to hold.

In terms of opportunity, let me make clear that I do not mean superficial equality of opportunity. For example, by almost all measures Maryland is the most affluent state and Baltimore is one of the poorest cities in the country; there is no greater economic disparity between a state and its largest city in the entire nation. Nearly a quarter of the people in Maryland living below the poverty line live in Baltimore, the population of which is 64 percent black.

Of the 100 largest city or county jurisdictions in the country, Baltimore ranks dead last in the ability of a poor child to rise from poverty later in life. That is not equality of opportunity. There is no lack of resources in the state to provide the health, educational and social services necessary to improve that standing; there is only a lack of will. That has to change.

Therefore I might feel differently about the efforts of the Legislative Black Caucus to derail the licensing process if the efforts were likely to create job opportunities for the unacceptably high number of poor black men and women who cannot find decent paying jobs, especially in Baltimore. But that is not what this is about. The unsuccessful black applicants are not poor or disadvantaged.

Setting aside licenses for black applicants would benefit persons to whom members of the caucus turn when it comes time to finance their campaigns, not people who need help to rise from poverty. When you come right down to it, favoring a black applicant with a license on the basis of the applicant’s race would do nothing more than substitute black privilege for white privilege.

There is a strong undercurrent of white resentment in Maryland and in the country that is being exploited by the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Some white resentment is based on prejudice, but some is just resentment. Bumping someone to the head of the line on the basis of race is something that either white or black people legitimately resent — depending on who is being bumped.

If the Legislative Black Caucus succeeds in its efforts, it will be seen for exactly what is: A triumph of racial politics over fairness. And it will be another piece of ammunition handed over to those who seek to exploit white resentment for their own political advantage.

September 21, 2016

[Published as an op-ed by The Baltimore Sun on September 21, 2016 but not posted to my blog until December 9, 2016.  The date of posting that appears above was backdated to place all posts in the order in which they were written.]

 

 

Race, religion and football.

In the weeks and months following the refusal by Rosa Parks to give up her seat to a white passenger and move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, no one could have known that her simple act of defiance in 1955 would become an iconic event in the civil rights movement.  Similarly, it is far too early to gauge the impact of the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem that precedes the start of each NFL game.

Kaepernick has, however, brought the debate over race relations in general and police brutality in particular into the mainstream of white American culture in a manner that few other ways could.  He has broached the subject through the religion that is an integral part of that culture – the civic religion of football.

If football is a religion then NFL players are its icons.  To 49er fans Kaepernick is not simply a black man; he is someone with whom they identify and share a common cause.  He is a member of their team and their fates rise and fall together.  Although his status in the ecclesiastical hierarchy may have declined somewhat because of his performance last season Kaepernick and 49er fans have a bond that, for some fans, is almost as strong as the bonds that they have with members of their own families.

If the movement continues to expand, as it appears it will, the fans of other NFL teams will begin to see the issues that he has raised in a slightly different light as their favorite players embrace the protest.  White fans that would not pay the slightest attention to something said by a member of the Black Lives Matter movement will at least hear what the players are telling them.  That is how the process of changing minds begins.

The sheer size of the NFL “congregation” is staggering.  About half of all Americans identify themselves as football fans, and television ratings bear that out.  In February Super Bowl 50 attracted 111.9 million viewers in the United States.  Sunday Night Football, which averaged 22.5 million viewers per week last season, has been America’s highest-rated primetime show for five consecutive years.  About 77% of NFL fans are white but 68% of the players are black.  Kaepernick and the other protesters have an unparalleled opportunity to convey their message to a white audience.

The movement likely would have stalled had it not received support from an unexpected source:  Military veterans.  In response to critics who claimed that Kaepernick’s gesture was insulting to members of the military there was a significant outpouring of support for Kaepernick from military veterans.  The critics failed to recognize that 32% of the members of today’s active duty military do not identify themselves as white; they also underestimated the intelligence of service members who understand that the values for which they fight are more important than a poem written by a Maryland lawyer and put to the music of a popular English song.

The nature of the gesture itself also was important.  Kaepernick initially chose to sit during the anthem but after speaking with Nate Boyer, a former member of the Seattle Seahawks and also a former Green Beret, he decided to kneel.  I happened to be listening to Fox NFL Sunday last Sunday, which gives you an idea of how I spend most Sunday afternoons in the fall and winterOne of my favorite football scholars, Terry Bradshaw, supported Kaepernick’s right to protest and thought that kneeling was an appropriate way to do so, observing “heck, during the Vietnam War they used to burn the flag.”  I’ve always believed that Terry is smarter than he sounds, so I think that was Terry’s way of saying that kneeling during the national anthem is not so offensive that the people for whom the message is intended would be too angry to hear it.

Finally, the relatively low regard given by the NFL and the television networks to the ritual of playing the national anthem before kickoff may have mellowed the response to Kaepernick’s protest.  The vast majority of the fans who see a game watch it on television and the networks, with the consent of the NFL, routinely broadcast commercials rather than show the playing of the national anthem.  The high priest of the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell, doesn’t believe that it is important that most of us listen to, let alone honor, the national anthem prior to a game.

This is not 1955 and race relations have come a long way, and the analogy to Rosa Parks goes only so far.  She was arrested and lost her job for what she did, and received death threats for years.  Kaepernick risks a lot less.  Also, any honest conversation about race today is going to sound a lot different today than it did then.

Today, there is more to discuss than discrimination by whites against blacks.  Yes, that type of discrimination still exists but we also need a frank discussion about black racism, the abuse of affirmative action and whether the institution of slavery plays any role in the current plight of the 24% of black Americans who live in poverty other than operate as some sort of collective excuse.  If Kaepernick’s protest helps get the conversation started then it has done some good.

September 14, 2016

 

Police unions have become too powerful.

Because of events over the past week in Philadelphia, Santa Clara and Chicago I decided to post a commentary on police officer labor unions on Labor Day.  Police unions have evolved into something unlike anything that has gone before in the history of the labor movement in this country and unlike anything else in the private or public sector today.  Their power is political rather than economic and is not susceptible to market forces.  They have been able to strengthen their position not only through collective bargaining but also through favorable legislation.  In many large cities they are as much a part of the governance of the police departments as the police chiefs.

Unfortunately many police unions continue to use their considerable power to resist the reforms in policing and police accountability necessary to restore the trust of minority communities in the police that serve those communities.  If anything, the attitudes of police unions toward reform and those who advocate reform appear to be hardening.

The first event that drew my attention occurred in Philadelphia.  John McNesby, president of Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 5, publicly slammed Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee in July for inviting relatives of black men killed by police but not family members of police officers killed in the line of duty to speak at the Democratic National Convention.  He said that the FOP was “insulted” by the omission.  Fair enough.

Last week, however, McNesby defended a Philadelphia police officer who has a tattoo on his left forearm of a spread-winged eagle beneath the word “Fatherland” that bears a resemblance to part of the Parteiadler, the emblem of the Nazi party.  The images have been associated with some neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, although it is not known whether the officer is a member of such a group.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney described the tattoo as “incredibly offensive.”  McNesby was not offended and defended the officer’s right to freedom of expression.  “I’ve seen it. It’s an eagle. Not a big deal.  I see people with panthers on their arm.  Doesn’t mean they are black panthers.”  McNesby was insulted by the failure of Democrats to invite families of slain police officers to speak at its convention but saw no problem with a tattoo worn by one of the members of his union that is likely to offend the 300,000 Jews who live in the city as well as the 55% of Philadelphia’s population that is non-white?

McNesby couldn’t bring himself to utter one word of empathy for citizens who might be alarmed at seeing what appears to be a neo-Nazi tattoo on the arm of a police officer.  McNesby’s concept of leadership is not encouraging, but is fairly typical.

Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, is located in Santa Clara, California.  Last week the Santa Clara Police Officer’s Association, the union representing Santa Clara police officers, wrote a letter stating that its members might refuse to provide security at 49ers games if the 49ers did not take disciplinary action against quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem during a preseason game in protest against the alleged brutality of police officers toward blacks.  He also wore socks with images of pigs wearing police hats to training sessions.

The socks were inappropriate and offensive; a complaint to the 49ers was understandable.  But threatening to take action that would put the safety of thousands of fans at risk because one NFL player chose to exercise his right to express himself in a disrespectful but lawful manner?  The letter was a remarkable display of the union’s attitude toward the general public.

The third event that caught my attention happened in Chicago.  The Chicago FOP called on members of the Chicago Police Department not to volunteer to work overtime on the Labor Day weekend “to protest the continued disrespect of Chicago Police Officers and the killings of Law Enforcement Officers across our Country.”  86 people were murdered in Chicago in August, the deadliest month in 20 years.  The FOP’s announcement of its Labor Day boycott came on the heels of the news that the Chicago police superintendent is seeking the termination of five officers involved in the shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014, an incident that undoubtedly lowered respect for Chicago police in Chicago and elsewhere.

The shooting of McDonald was ruled to be justified until video belatedly surfaced showing McDonald walking away from officers rather than toward them as stated in their reports.  He was shot 16 times.  And the FOP believes that the answer to the “disrespect” that it is feeling is to refuse to work overtime to protect the public during a holiday in the middle of an epidemic of violent crime?  Again, what does it tell you about the basic attitude of an organization when it chooses to try to regain the respect of citizens by threatening their well-being?

In July the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a blistering report accusing the Baltimore Police Department of a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct including unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests.  The response by the president of the Baltimore FOP was that the “systemic deficiencies” reported by the DOJ were the fault of management, not rank-and-file officers.   “I will not allow the Department of Justice to lay blame on the shoulders of the dedicated men and women of the Baltimore Police Department,” stated the president, Lt. Gene Ryan.  The vice-president, Lt. Victor Gearhart, scoffed at the report as “heavy on anecdotes from questionable characters and light on provable facts.”

There is a common theme to all of the above:  Police union members are never to blame and someone else is always is at fault.  Union members don’t need to change because they are never the problem.  The problem always lies with politicians, management or the citizens that union members are sworn to serve and protect, not with the manner in which union members are doing their job.

Something is out of whack.  Why?  The answer lies in the fundamental nature of labor unions and the strong insular culture that prevails in many large police departments which, in combination, produces organizations that are particularly adversarial and resistant to change.  When that intransigence is reinforced by the strong political support that many police unions enjoy you can end up with an entirely unworkable and destructive situation, which is the case in Baltimore.

The principle by which police unions, like other unions, are governed is the self-interest of their members.  This creates tunnel vision causing them to see their world only in terms of their own rights and privileges.  The unions generally are contractually obligated to defend even the most marginal of conduct by their members, a fact that tends to define the unions by that conduct.  McNesby, for example, would rather risk provoking the anger of a majority of the citizens of Philadelphia than criticize one of his own members.  Although McNesby may see that as protecting the rights of one of his members the rest of the world sees it as the police union condoning insensitive and even hateful conduct by its members.

In cities such as Baltimore strong police unions have become parallel governance structures within police departments.  They do more than represent their members in collective bargaining; they share power with police chiefs over the control of the department.  This has happened because police unions draw political support not only from traditionally pro-union Democrats but also from law and order Republicans.

Consequently, police unions frequently have more political influence with the elected officials that are in charge of the governments that employ the police than do police chiefs.  It is like having the officers and directors of a private company aligned more with the labor unions representing the company’s workforce than with the managers employed to supervise the workforce.

In Maryland police unions used their political clout in the General Assembly to wrest control over the discipline of their members away from police chiefs through the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR).  A succession of Baltimore mayors and city council members intimidated by the city FOP lodge took away even more control over the disciplinary process from the city’s police commissioner than required by state law.  They further diluted management’s influence over rank-and-file officers by allowing sergeants and lieutenants to belong to the same union as the rank-and-file officers that they train and supervise.

The LEOBR is hardly the only impediment to police accountability.  The “us vs. them” culture of most large police departments which includes the “blue wall of silence” is another, perhaps greater obstacle.  It discourages officers from reporting the misconduct of their peers and even encourages them to lie to protect each other.  The LEOBR, in concert with what the DOJ referred to in the Baltimore Police Department as “a cultural resistance to accountability,” has rendered the process for holding Baltimore police officers accountable for misconduct almost completely ineffective as documented not only by the DOJ but also by a separate investigation done by the Baltimore Sun.  The Baltimore Police Department, like many other police departments, does a very poor job of getting rid of bad cops.

Institutions such as police departments have to change and adapt as society evolves. Change is always hard, but it has become nearly impossible in some police departments, including Baltimore, because of police unions.  The problem is that police unions are not changing; they are becoming more, not less, reactionary.  Traditional labor unions have waxed and waned over time; some unions that were formed because of intolerable working conditions and low wages eventually hastened the demise of certain industries because of their excessive demands.  Immune from market forces, and given almost unconditional support from politicians, police unions have seen no need to change and adapt, so they haven’t.  Something is going to have to give if reform is going to take place.

It is pointless to blame the unions themselves; they are doing what unions do.  The entire responsibility for allowing the situation to get to this point rests with elected officials.

Earlier this year the Daily Record ran an editorial stating that the Baltimore Police Department could not be reformed unless someone managed to “dismantle the police union’s grip on city government.”  That is precisely the case and unless the mayor and city council, with some help from the General Assembly, are willing to do what is necessary to reduce the power of the FOP over the manner in which the Baltimore Police Department is run no worthwhile reforms will occur.

September 5, 2016

Don’t let bad start affect final decision.

Lady Justice probably grimaced a bit under her blindfold at the secret manner in which the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) began its trial of a wide area aerial surveillance system.  The grimace may turn to a smile when she realizes that the system may be as much use if not more in exonerating the innocent as it is in capturing the guilty.

A case in point was the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson, one of the officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.  Goodson, the driver of the van in which Gray received his fatal injury, was charged with second degree murder among other charges.  During his trial prosecutors introduced into evidence a brief video pieced together from ground level surveillance cameras that allegedly showed Goodson giving the unbuckled Gray a “rough ride.”

The video was inconclusive at best.  There is a possibility that continuous video taken from high above the city could have provided much more definitive evidence of what occurred, even to the extent of allowing analysts to calculate the approximate speed of the van.  Think of how such evidence could have changed the course of justice in that case, one way or the other.  On one hand had there been unequivocal evidence of a rough ride Goodson probably would be in prison today.  On the other there is no doubt in my mind that Goodson would not have been charged with second degree murder had there been video clearly showing him driving the van in a prudent manner – if he was charged at all.

Unlike targeted surveillance programs, including voice and data interceptions, the scope of the information gathered is not limited at its source by law enforcement and therein lies its advantage:  It collects possible evidence continuously and indiscriminately, and the evidence can turn out to be inculpatory or exculpatory.  It can refute an alibi or confirm one.  It offers the possibility, in equal measure, of verifying or discrediting the accounts of eyewitnesses, including police officers.  It is an unblinking eye and, unlike body cameras, it cannot be turned off and on by the officers on the street.

Now that the aerial surveillance system is in place the due diligence required of police when investigating crimes requires detectives to use it, if possible, to check the veracity of the accounts of arresting officers, eyewitnesses, suspects, etc. as to their locations and movements.   Of course, trusting police officers to do their jobs properly is not enough to protect the rights of persons once they have been charged with crimes.  Then, aerial surveillance video must be made available to defendants and their attorneys to allow them to independently verify the accounts, and to discover any exculpatory evidence.

That is where Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis apparently had a blind spot.  He failed to recognize that any tool that he is provided for solving crimes, whether it be DNA testing, fingerprint comparison, or aerial surveillance is every bit as important for protecting the innocent as it is for punishing the guilty.  Our system of justice is premised on the doctrine set forth by William Blackstone in the 18th century that “the law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.”  Davis had no right to keep the aerial surveillance secret from defendants and their attorneys once it was placed in operation and to deprive them of a possible source of exculpatory evidence.

Nevertheless, I hope that his mistake in judgment does not prejudice an objective review of the aerial surveillance system.  It seems to me that, especially in Baltimore at this point in its history, we should be hesitant to reject any additional means of gathering evidence that could lead to the capture of more criminals while at the same time protecting the innocent from being wrongfully charged with crimes.

I said the fact that the system gathers information continuously and indiscriminately is an advantage from an evidentiary standpoint, and it is.  It is also the source of the main objection to the system.

Each of us has our own view on how much of an intrusion the aerial surveillance system is on or our privacy and on how much of that privacy we are willing to give up to reduce crime.  At this point we do not know whether the system is cost effective and whether the BPD will want to keep it when the grant runs out; other cities have been less than impressed with its utility when weighed against its cost.

It seems to me the city needs more information before making a final decision on whether any gains in solving crime outweigh the objections to the loss of privacy.  I hope that people keep an open mind if it appears that the wide area aerial surveillance system can make Baltimore safer, and maybe a little fairer.

September 1, 2016