Concerns that the pending executions of two men could cause violent protests prompted Maryland State Police surveillance of death penalty opponents and peace activists, police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan said. Sheridan denounced the 14-month undercover spying operation, which he said was ordered in 2005 by a top police commander during the administration of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. The infiltration of nonviolent activist groups from Takoma Park to Baltimore, revealed in documents released to the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, was unnecessary and showed poor judgment, Sheridan said.
“Let me assure you, this method will not continue,” the police chief, appointed last year by Ehrlich’s successor, Gov. Martin O’Malley, said at a news conference outside state police headquarters. “Law enforcement has no right or authority to infringe on citizens’ rights to free speech or public assembly.” Although he called the surveillance lawful, Sheridan said: “The question that comes up is judgment. They shouldn’t have gone on that long.” Intelligence logs included in the released documents showed no reports of illegal activity. Sheridan announced a review of the conditions for undercover investigations by his officers and new training procedures “so we make sure our policies reflect the standards of this administration,” reports the Washington Post.