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September 01, 2016

Baltimore Surveillance Debate ‘Healthy,’ Laura Arnold Says

The uproar over the Baltimore Police Department’s undisclosed use of grant-funded aerial surveillance technology has fueled a “healthy” public discussion about the use of such tactics, billionaire donor Laura Arnold told The Baltimore Sun.

Ms. Arnold and her husband, former hedge-fund manager John Arnold, gave $360,000 to test police use of small surveillance planes to track possible criminal activity, according to the Sun. The program, begun in January, was not disclosed until Bloomberg Businessweek reported on it last week. The Arnolds’ giving has emphasized the use of technology and data analysis to address criminal justice, education, and other major public-policy issues.

Ms. Arnold said the Houston couple has not “created a position as to whether Baltimore should use” the surveillance technology and that the debate over doing so requires community input and addressing tradeoffs between reducing crime and preserving people’s privacy. That such a debate is now happening “is all very healthy,” she said.

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy opinion column about the Baltimore Community Foundation's role in the police-surveillance grant.