Baltimore police declined using aerial surveillance until big donors stepped up, emails show

Wednesday, 13 September 2017, 04:02:54 PM. The emails, obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a public records request, show how an early effort to put the company's surveillance plane in the skys above Baltimore — including for the 2014 'Star Spangled' celebration of the national anthem's bicentennial — had come to a grinding halt. But that wasn't the end.
When an Ohio company pitched its aerial surveillance technology to the Baltimore Police Department in the summer of 2014, department officials weren't interested, according to internal emails obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a public records request. Persistent Surveillance Systems said it could help police monitor Baltimore's Star-Spangled Spectacular, a celebration of Battle of Baltimore's bicentennial. Department officials said no. "Unfortunately Baltimore at this time will not be utilizing [wide area surveillance], for the Star Spangled Spectacular or any other event," Lt. Sam Hood, head of the department's CitiWatch program, wrote to Persistent Surveillance president Ross McNutt. A year later, Houston philanthropists Laura and John Arnold heard about McNutt's technology on the National Public Radio program "Radiolab," according to the emails, and contacted him with an offer to pay for a program testing its application by police in a major American city. "They are interested in conducting a rigorous evaluation of the impact of PSS on crime, case closure rates, and deterrence in [an] urban environment," McNutt wrote to Hood in a July 15, 2015 email. He asked Hood whether he would be interested in talking to someone at the foundation. Kevin Rector and Justin George Before the first plane left the ground, the company operating an aerial surveillance program for the Baltimore Police Department recommended that the department conduct focus groups and other outreach...Read more
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