Breitbart News reports: The FBI recently used a fleet of black-owned vehicles as a mobile command center in Baltimore to train the police department’s officers in the use of body cameras.
The FBI’s move to use Black-owned vans and cars to conduct surveillance in Baltimore is a shocking and potentially unconstitutional expansion of its authority over Black communities.
The agency’s use of Black-Owned Vehicles (BOLVs) is nothing new.
The FBI has been using them for years to conduct mass surveillance on Black communities and people of color.
Black communities are increasingly frustrated by the lack of transparency and accountability of the Bureau, which they believe is used to unfairly target and harass them.
A recent article in The Baltimore Sun revealed that the Baltimore Police Department had been using Black-Powered Vehicle (BPV) vans as command centers for more than a year, including on November 20, 2016, just days before the killing of Freddie Gray by the Baltimore police.
The Sun reported that the Black-Led Community Safety Initiative (BLCISI), a Black community group, had been working to build a BPV fleet in Baltimore for more a year before the FBI purchased the vans and began using them to conduct an unprecedented surveillance operation in Baltimore.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the FBI’s use is in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits the government from “searching any house, person, papers, or effects without a warrant.”
The article states that, “If the government has reason to believe that someone is committing a crime, the police can use any tools at their disposal, including deadly force.”
The BLMISI said that they would use the Black vans for surveillance because the FBI “is not authorized to use BOLVs to conduct warrantless surveillance.
BOLV surveillance is not permitted in our communities, and we are not authorized by the state of Maryland to engage in warrantless and illegal surveillance.”
The BLMISi also said that the FBI had violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, because they “are the primary agents of law enforcement in our city.”
The Baltimore Police department said in a statement that, “[BOLV] surveillance is prohibited by the City of Baltimore and the Baltimore City Police Department and is not authorized.”
BLMISIs spokesperson also said, “This type of surveillance is in direct violation of federal law and our local ordinance.”
The ACLU of Maryland has filed a complaint with the Justice Department and the Department of Justice to obtain a court order forcing the FBI to immediately stop using Black vehicles for surveillance.
The ACLU has also called on the DOJ to review the use and enforcement of the BOLVS.
“The FBI has a responsibility to ensure that its law enforcement officers can use all tools at the agency’s disposal to investigate and prosecute crime, and it must end the practice of Black communities being targeted and intimidated with no oversight or accountability,” said ACLU of Montgomery Director of Legal and Policy Jennifer Williams.
“We hope the Justice and Department of Homeland Security agencies will take swift and decisive action to protect public safety by stopping the use or enforcement of these surveillance technologies.”
The BLMIs use of the Black Panthers vans as surveillance vehicles has sparked criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“This is a sad day for the Baltimore community, for Baltimoreans and for all communities in America who are now being targeted by the FBI in the name of ‘anti-crime,'” said ACLU Staff Attorney Mark Schauer.
“It is also an unfortunate development that the bureau is using Black owned vehicles to conduct illegal surveillance in its efforts to disrupt and intimidate communities of color and communities of no color.”