Despite opposition from Johns Hopkins University faculty, on Monday, Maryland’s General Assembly approved a public safety bill allowing the school to establish its own police department.
The new bill promises safety and security at Johns Hopkins and on other campuses in Baltimore by hiring 100 officers who will receive training in racial profiling prevention, de-escalation techniques, and crisis response.
Prior to the bill’s approval, university faculty members voiced concerns about a campus police force being undemocratic and potentially exposing students to more risks. In February, more than 60 faculty members signed an open letter in opposition to the proposal, characterizing it as creating an “armed private police force.”
The signatories further alleged the University of not providing serious evidence to back its claims of intended effects.
Meanwhile, university leaders have maintained that the bill is an effective measure in tackling increasing incidents of violent crime near its campus and across the city.
“We believe in the end that this legislation reflects an approach to university and community safety that we can be proud of at Johns Hopkins and in Baltimore, setting a standard as the most comprehensive set of university policing requirements anywhere,” Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels and Johns Hopkins Medicine CEO Paul B. Rothman wrote in a message to the Hopkins community.
“Yet we also know that the true test of this effort lies ahead, as we begin the work of building a constitutional, community-oriented, and publicly accountable university police department, with fidelity to the letter and spirit of this law.”
Once the bill is signed into law, the university will establish a 15-member accountability board to review the department’s policies, training and proceeds, as well as a hearing board to look into cases of misconduct. Overall, the bill seeks to implement best practices in constitutional and community-oriented policing.