Scott: Council needs to know more about surveillance program

City Councilman Brandon Scott, who represents the 2nd District and serves as vice chair of the council's Public Safety Committee, said most council members don't know enough about a surveillance program that flies a plane mounted with cameras over the city—and that's the problem.

"Just talking to some of my colleagues, the big issue is that no one knew about it," he told City Paper over the phone Friday morning. "We don't even know enough about the actual program to make an informed decision. People want us to make an educated response."

The program only came to light on Tuesday after Bloomberg published the cover story "Secret Cameras Record Baltimore's Every Move From Above."

Scott said that he's currently bouncing dates back and forth with the police department so that he can sit down and learn more about the program. "I'm going to try and meet with the commissioner to be briefed as much as possible about the plane," he said.

Scott said the issue points to something that's already been a hot topic here in Baltimore – how to deal with race and crime.

In the Bloomberg piece, writer Monte Reel notes that the planes have mostly flown over places with high concentrations of black residents—Compton, for one.

Scott says that he actually hears from constituents who are looking for more surveillance, as a way to stop crime.

"We have this report that says our police department has a lifelong history of treating African-American citizens in the wrong way," he said, referring the Department of Justice report released earlier this month.

"At the same time, I also have constituents and black people who are constantly asking me for more police and more CCTV cameras. How do we get to the happy medium? There is a way to do all this stuff without violating civil rights," he said. "It's a delicate balance that those of us in elected office have to strike."

"Listen," he continued, "we need police but we have to make sure that everything is done the right way. I think the reality gets lost in the sensationalization of everything. We have to break down so many other barriers.

"The truth is, a lot of time when those officers are showing up to talk to young African-American men, nine times out of 10, they were called by somebody black. Those relationships are not there. It's a deeper conversation."

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