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Public Defender to Baltimore Police: Suspend Use of Surveillance Plane

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The Public Defenders Office in Baltimore has called on the city police department to stop videotaping residents from the sky.

Since January, the city of Baltimore has been under intermittent surveillance from the sky, and the public was never told, according to a report out this week in Bloomberg Businessweek.

"It wasn't a secret. It wasn't something that we were intentionally keeping anybody in the dark about," said Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

But, Deputy District Public Defender Natalie Finegar tells WJZ, "It certainly was a secret to us. So I'm not sure who it wasn't a secret for."

Now, in letters to the state's attorney and police commissioner the public defender's office is "requesting that this surveillance program be suspended".

The program-- first uncovered by Bloomberg-- records and archives video allowing  investigators to see what happens at a crime scene.

RELATEDBaltimore Police Respond To Report Of Secret Aerial Surveillance Program

Public defenders say there are too many unanswered questions.

"We don't even know who owns the data," says Finegar. "Does this private company have the ability to sell this data to other entities? We don't know the storage of it. How long it it kept?"

The program began in January with the plane filming 300 hours of footage over 32 miles.

"It helped us close a murder. It's helped us close several nonfatal shootings," said Davis.

But both the mayor and state's attorney say they just recently found out about it.

Marilyn Mosby has asked police to turn over a list of dates and times that areas were filmed.

The public defender's office is now filing discovery motions in all cases that may have been caught on camera.

Police officials tell WJZ the commissioner is drafting a response to the public defender's letter.

The city council has called for hearings on the aerial surveillance program.

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