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Spy planes should track police misconduct, too

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison (right) announces support for a pilot program to use three private surveillance planes over the city to combat crime. He was joined by city solicitor Andre Davis.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison (right) announces support for a pilot program to use three private surveillance planes over the city to combat crime. He was joined by city solicitor Andre Davis. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

The recent article, “City police back surveillance planes” (Dec. 21), says the planes “will not be used to investigate police misconduct during the trial run.” That’s a pity.

It’s easy to back the surveillance of others. The popularity of this concept is the unstated presumption that the surveillance will be of poorer and blacker neighborhoods who don’t have the power to prevent it. If the surveillance was being proposed for everyone, or focused on the movements of the economically better off, there might be less support. Or the middle-class and wealthy might take strength in the fact that the actions they would want to hide primarily take place indoors where planes in the sky are ineffective for surveillance.

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At the same time, Baltimore has been having some high-profile problems with the actions within its police force. When some of the police act as if they are above the law, it erodes the respect for the law in the city. When some socioeconomic groups are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement, it erodes the trust in that law enforcement and makes it less effective in areas populated by those socioeconomic groups. The actions of some within the police force not only mistreat part of the city’s population, it increases the crime problem via systemic effects.

If surveillance is a good idea (and I think that’s a big “if”), then the Baltimore police could demonstrate that by volunteering to be subject to that surveillance.

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Personally, I think the money would be better spent creating economic opportunity in poorer areas of the city so that crime is not seen as the best economic alternative to entrepreneurs growing up and living in those areas. That, though, is a longer discussion that is too-often ignored.

George Dinwiddie, Pasadena

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