Week In Review: Mo’Nique was right, the police spy plane is back and it’s woke now, new commish confirmed, and more

Diagram of how the Persistent Surveillance plane operates / Courtesy MPIA

-Acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa has been confirmed as the city’s next commissioner outright. Mayor Catherine Pugh, however, will only vaguely inform the public as to whether or not she did her homework before appointing De Sousa (she tweeted during the meeting where he was confirmed). Meanwhile, she has been silent on De Sousa’s three fatal shootings. Remember: The mayor said she got rid of former Commissioner Kevin Davis because she was “impatient.” You can’t rush a decision as important as this one, though. Especially when the BPD is embroiled in so much scandal.

-The secret surveillance plane that flew over the city back in 2016 recording citizens—which the Baltimore Police said wasn’t secret even though the mayor and city council among others didn’t know about it—is back and it’s um, woke? Ross McNutt of Persistent Surveillance, who pitched his spy plane to the cops back then, has returned with a new program, Community Solutions, and a new pitch: The spy plane that records people all the time can be used to catch crooked cops! Mayor Pugh, addicted to terrible ideas, is considering it. “Using the BPD’s corruption as an purported basis to put every resident of Baltimore under permanent aerial surveillance to keep a record of everyone’s every public movement, as a means of inducing other cities to purchase PSS’s Orwellian product, which will also allow PSS to amass more data to sell on the private market, is truly one of the most stunningly cynical and repulsive things I have ever heard of in my entire life,” ACLU’s David Rocah told the Beat in an email.

-At a press conference for Light City last week, part of the goal was to “change the narrative,” as our mayor says, with much of it focused on responding to the U.S.A. Today declaration that Baltimore is the most dangerous city in America. Whether or not a well-loved free festival held all over the city from downtown to the surrounding neighborhoods that are primarily affected by the danger can or even should be countering that is up for debate, but Light City has become one of those things everybody embraces. A number of the headlining acts were announced at the presser and they include hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash as well as G. Love & Special Sauce and Kimbra. We anticipate being downtown for Flash and look forward to seeing the increasingly ambitious Neighborhood Lights artist commissions that were a highlight last year.

-We’ve already voiced her support for Baltimore native, comedian, and award-winning actress Mo’Nique and her crusade to bring attention to the fact that because she’s black and a woman, she’s routinely undervalued for her work. She’s been on a bit of a media tour of late, sparring with the ladies of “The View” and dunking on Charlamagne Tha God on his New York City based radio show “The Breakfast Club” (find that video online, pop some popcorn, and watch it from start to finish, if you can). It’s interesting that for Mo’Nique to spread the word, she must use the same outlets that tend to undervalue and gaslight black women (Charlamagne recently scolded black women and said that they should be more like white, racist Twitter personality Tomi Lahren). Mo’Nique holds her own, though.

-Rep. Elijah Cummings wants to know the same thing we all do: What the hell is going on with the city’s broken metro system? Specifically, how long did the Maryland Transit Association know about the problems that led to it being shut down abruptly in early February? “If the Metro subway has been operated while an unsafe condition existed, I would like to understand what specifically prompted the immediate shutdown,” Cummings wrote.

-Over the weekend, a film of Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman play “Notes From The Field” premiered on HBO. The play, which focuses on Baltimore and the school-to-prison pipeline, finds Smith, a Baltimore native and one of a kind, performing, acting out, and giving voice to different affected people, though phrases such as “giving voice” fall short. It’s more like she briefly absorbs their personalities and puts it on the stage—a shocking display of empathy. “Notes From The Field” is a nice counterpoint to the more straight-down-the-line documentary “Baltimore Rising” that premiered back in the fall. Meanwhile, Theo Anthony’s stellar essay-like documentary “Rat Film” played on PBS. If you want a fairly three-dimensional look at post-uprising Baltimore, watching “Notes From The Field,” “Baltimore Rising,” and “Rat Film” (along with “The Keepers” and “Step”) is a good start.

-There have been six homicides between Feb. 19 (when last week’s issue of the Beat went to press) and Feb. 26 (when this week’s issue went to press): Andreas Tamaris on Feb. 19; Dorian Cook, Juwanna Eskridge, and Tyrone Manning all on Feb. 21; Preston Green on Feb. 24; and Jasmine Chandler on Feb. 25. So far this year, there have been 37 homicides in Baltimore.

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