It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane … No It’s the Baltimore Police Department


To many the Baltimore Police Department is best known for its fictionalized role in the critically acclaimed HBO crime drama The Wire. The show tracked the inner workings of the Baltimore police, politics and various forms of corruption. The show, which first aired in 2002, is also known for using then-cutting edge surveillance techniques such as wire taps and mobile phone tower spoofing. 

The Baltimore Police Department is now engaging in surveillance activities that would make the fictional characters McNulty, Bunk, Kima and even Bubbles jealous. 

Earlier this year, a Maryland appellate court ruled that the Baltimore Police needed a warrant to use a Stingray to track mobile phones, the Baltimore Sun reported. A Stringray is the brand name for a cell-site simulator. The technology permits users to track the general location or identifying information of targeted cellular devices. Such simulators can intercept data from cellphones without the users' knowledge or consent. 

It now seems the Baltimore Police Department has taken their surveillance tactics a bit further. According to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek report, Baltimore police have been using surveillance planes to monitor the public for as much as “10 hours a day.” The technology allows the police department to see a “searchable, constantly updating photographic map,” the report said.

Civil liberties groups were outraged after they learned of the secret surveillance method. Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith responded by saying that the surveillance program was not a secret and they will continue the aerial operations.

The back and forth between police surveillance and individual’s right to privacy will continue to roar on as law enforcement agencies adopt more technologically advanced surveillance methods. 

As The Wire’s Omar Little would say it’s “all in the game, yo.” Indeed.

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