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Latest aerial surveillance plan deserves its legal challenge | READER COMMENTARY

The Washington-based Police Foundation recommended the city conduct "a rigorous evaluation" next to determine whether the program could be adopted in a cost-efficient, effective and transparent way. (Baltimore Sun video)

The aerial surveillance program is grounded again, this time by a lawsuit (“ACLU sues Baltimore Police over contract for private planes to survey city for photographic evidence of crime,” April 9). This pilot initiative could be key to reducing violent crime, and the ACLU is still right to challenge its legality. So is one of its earliest supporters, mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah, when he argued that the program would be unconstitutional without a rule that police must get a warrant each time.

As a city resident and an attorney, I hope the federal judge hearing the case, Judge Richard Bennett, will adopt the requirement that Mr. Vignarajah proposed in his op-ed from before he was a candidate. Without a warrant, every case will be challenged, maybe not by the ACLU but by defense attorneys, and this issue will have to be repeatedly relitigated. The ACLU’s lawsuit may help resolve this issue once and for all.

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Politics has made it harder to do the right thing in this case. Inflexible views, on either extreme, do ordinary citizens no good. We need to respect public safety and community privacy, and a warrant requirement is a smart, sensible compromise that would achieve both. Let’s hope Judge Bennett sees that, too.

Julianne Montes de Oca, Baltimore

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