Students on security advisory committee share perspectives

By MICHAEL TRAUTMANN RODRIGUEZ | February 21, 2019

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The University announced in an email to the student body in September that it planned to create a Student Advisory Committee for Security (SACS). Applications for SACS opened that month, and selected students were notified of their appointment to the Committee on Oct. 30. The Committee met twice, once in November and once in December, before the University released the names of the selected students on the Security website on January 28.

Formed to provide Vice President for Security Melissa Hyatt with a student perspective on safety and security across the Hopkins campuses, the Committee consists of 15 members in total. Ten of the selected members are from designated student representative organizations across branches of the University, and five are at-large members.

The News-Letter reached out to all 15 committee members for comment and the six that responded are included in this piece. 

Carey Business School Student Advocacy Council

Selected from the Carey School of Business Student Advocacy Council, Daniel Mosqueda is currently a Master’s student. Having served in the U.S. Air Force for 24 years before studying at Carey, Mosqueda felt that his experience protecting both people and facilities gave him a unique perspective to offer the University.

Mosqueda spoke to his experience as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, a school with its own private police force, as a reason that a Hopkins police force could be valuable. He emphasized that his primary concern is the safety of students. 

“There was never really any issue that I saw, and it added a level of security to the campus that your standard security guards who are sitting at a desk just can’t provide,“ he said.

He believes that though the University’s bill to create a private police force could contribute to gentrification in Baltimore if it passes, it could also provide an additional sense of security both for students and community members. According to Mosqueda, Hyatt’s experience with the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) would prove valuable.

“She has a lot of experience in the BPD; she’s the right person to be able to work with the community and with the Baltimore Police Department in order to ensure that [a negative] outcome doesn’t occur,” he said.

Homewood Campus Graduate Representative Organization (GRO)

Political Science graduate student and GRO representative Stephanie Saxton disagreed with Mosqueda about how the University and Baltimore City could address crime. Saxton believes that crime cannot be addressed in the long term by policing. Instead she emphasized that investing in education and community organizations would be a more effective solution.

“The city has defaulted to police for 20 years. Most major cities have, and we’re not seeing improvements with that investment. Baltimore City is now over $500 million in spending on policing, and it hasn’t done what it’s meant to do in the last 20 years,” she said. “Police was supposed to be a long-term resolution, and it’s not.”

Saxton encouraged students to vote to make their voices heard at a state level and push their legislators to ensure that if a private police force is created, there are mechanisms of transparency in place with regard to the training and accountability of a Hopkins force.

She appreciated that the Committee included perspectives from people from campuses such as Peabody, whose voices are not usually heard in conversations surrounding issues like a potential private police force.

“A student oversight board for security is late and necessary,” she said. “Why there hasn’t been a community oversight board or student oversight board for security until now is concerning, but it’s good that is happening right now.”

Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

Junior Rachel Lorenc applied to SACS as an at-large member. Like Saxton, she felt that the creation of SACS was vital for the conversation about security on campus. She decided to join the Committee because as a captain of the Hopkins Emergency Response Unit (HERO), she believes her experience working with security gives her a crucial perspective.

“We work with the security officers on every single call that we have, and we’ve had some really positive interactions with a number of them,” she said. “It’s important for us to be involved in any sort of steps moving forward so that we understand what our role will be.”

When Lorenc initially heard about the potential private police force, she was wary of the potential of guns on Homewood Campus. 

Gradually, however, she came to believe that the level of oversight and security that University officials proposed would ensure a sufficient level of transparency in a Hopkins force. She added that these structures of transparency were reflected in training and recruitment for potential new officers.

“They’ve been stressing a lot of de-escalation training and really noting about how Hopkins can pick the security officers that are the best fit for the campus,” she said. “A lot of work needs to be done to make sure that police officers aren’t going to fall into the traps of the BPD — the corruption, racism, homophobia and dealing with special needs populations.”

Lorenc expressed that she does not strongly oppose or support a private police force. Though she believes the steps University officials are taking now are in the right direction, she does feel that they should have disseminated information more clearly earlier in the conversation surrounding private police. 

School of Nursing Student Senate

School of Nursing Student Senate representative and psych nurse Emerald Rivers believes that the conversation about security at Hopkins should take mental health into account. According to her, decisions made by the Committee should prioritize student mental health. If a private police force is created, Rivers hopes that officers will be sufficiently trained to address mental health crises.

“The Committee should be concerned not only about what [officers] are taught in terms of their education on how to be a security professional but about what are they being taught about mental health awareness,” she said. “You need to think about trauma, you need to think about mental health awareness and discrimination.”

She believes that if University officials do institute a potential private police force, they should make data and accessible information on that force readily available. 

Whiting School of Engineering

Junior Kendall Free, the vice president of the Black Student Union (BSU), applied to SACS as an at-large member because she wanted to ensure that black students’ interests were represented within the Committee. 

While she commended the University’s attempt to encourage a dialogue about security, she also felt that there was a disconnect between administrators and security personnel that needs to be addressed. She added that University administrators also seemed disconnected from the larger Baltimore community.

According to Free, the changes that the Committee recommended have not yet been implemented, as per her knowledge.

“We make suggestions and have all these emotional experiences at meetings, and they hear it, but we don’t see any action. We don’t see any change, so to us it looks like it doesn’t mean anything,” she said.

Free explained that moving forward, her concerns about the administration’s lack of transparency and communication have persisted. She hopes that University officials create a clear path for people who have concerns regarding security.

“Hopkins should not have a private police force, and I’ve been engaging in a lot of different discussions around campus about it. It’s troubling to see how much [they’re] still full blazing ahead,” she said. “That’s what upsets me the most.”

Bloomberg School of Public Health Student Assembly

School of Public Health Ph.D. student Tyler Adamson shared similar concerns regarding the lack of transparency in every step of the University’s process of attempting to create a private police force. He was also worried that a private police force might not be able to remain accountable to the Baltimore community.

“I was very vehemently against the police force, and I still am. But this whole process is inevitable, and it’s going to happen no matter what I say or how I feel about it,“ he said. “So I want to make sure that it is held accountable, that the school isn’t able to just run amok, and make sure that having a private police force is not just having an extension of the Baltimore Police force.”

Adamson believes that transparency is particularly important in the recruitment of new officers. He hopes Hopkins will conduct thorough background checks and that officers are chosen to reflect the demographics of the community.

According to him, creating a private police force is not a solution to crime in the areas surrounding the Hopkins campuses. He asserted that crimes like theft and carjacking have deep and complex roots and that creating a police force would be a short-sighted solution. Instead, he would rather see Hopkins make an investment into the community.

“From a public health perspective, you’re spending millions of dollars on policing poor people,” he said. “Why aren’t we using that money towards community engagement, empowerment and providing opportunities for communities?”

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