On Monday, March 5 the University announced its intent to create a private police force. In the following week and a half, students created a petition against the proposal that has since garnered thousands of signatures; protested in front of University President Ronald J. Daniels’ home for the first time in recent memory; led phone banking efforts to voice their discontent to Maryland legislators; and expressed their concerns at forums both at Homewood and at the Medical Campus.
These events reflect the shock and confusion felt by the student body and the greater Baltimore community. Even Baltimore City Council members were surprised by the University’s announcement, and on Monday evening, the Council adopted a resolution which would require that Hopkins consult them in creating a private police force.
At an SGA forum on Tuesday night, administrators dodged questions about to what extent they informed local neighborhood associations about the University’s plan. Because the proposed police force would likely patrol adjoining neighborhoods, it is crucial that community organizations are a part of this conversation.
On the same day that Hopkins made their initial announcement, Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill to the legislature that would give Hopkins the right to create this force. At the SGA forum, administrators said that they are acting on this issue now in order to submit the bill for the upcoming session rather than wait another year. This year’s legislative session ends on April 9th, less than a month away.
Given the vigor of the protests and backlash as well as the unsatisfying answers the school has provided about what this police force would look like, why not take the proper time to clearly communicate the school’s plan to its students and community? Based on how administrators responded to student’s questions on Tuesday, we are not convinced that the school has a clear plan.
We understand that there are parents, students and community members who support this initiative. However, in just the past week, there has been enough skepticism about this proposal that we question why the school is asking, “What do we want this police force to look like?” when it should be asking, “Do we even want a police force?”
The introduction of a private police force may fundamentally change the University’s interactions with its surrounding communities as well as its role in Baltimore. The incorrect implementation of such a force could lead to fatal consequences. The University’s push for this change on such a short timeline rushes and stifles the important conversations that have been happening around campus for the past week.
It is frustrating to us that the University insists on moving forward, without properly considering whether students and citizens support such a force to begin with. We hope that in the coming weeks, as students continue to raise their concerns, that the University will take a step back and ask its community: “Should Hopkins even have a private police force?”