Billionaire donors Laura and John Arnold support far more in Maryland than police surveillance

From low-tech eyeglasses to high-tech spyglasses, the wealthy Texas philanthropists bankrolling secret aerial surveillance of Baltimore are no strangers to public policy initiatives in Maryland that match their charitable vision.

In the spring, Laura and John Arnold gave $450,000 from their Houston-based foundation to the Johns Hopkins University to support a city initiative to give free glasses to thousands of public school students to study how better vision improves school performance.

Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in Washington, said community foundations should not blindly allow donors to dictate what gets funded if their wishes do not align with the charity’s mission.

“The community should decide what policing it wants and what type of surveillance is and is not appropriate,” Dorfman said. “This kind of surveillance should not be done simply because a donor is willing to pay for it.”

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