University continues to push private police legislation

By JAE CHOI | February 7, 2019

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EDA INCEKARA / PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR The University makes its second attempt to authorize a private police force.

A bill that would grant Hopkins the authority to establish its own police force was introduced to the Maryland General Assembly on Monday. Senator Antonio Hayes is the sponsor of the bill, Senate Bill (SB) 793, titled “the Community Safety and Strengthening Act.” 

In addition to authorizing a Hopkins police force, SB 793 contains several provisions, including funds for Baltimore City youth programs and establishing an apprenticeship program for young people to begin careers in law enforcement.

Provost Sunil Kumar, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Daniel Ennis and Senior Vice President of Hopkins Medicine Robert Kasdin announced that the legislation had been introduced in a campus-wide email sent on Tuesday.  

Maryland lawmakers did not support the University’s 2018 bill for a private force, citing insufficient community outreach from the University. As a result, the University conducted an interim study on policing and held various forums and discussion panels open to students and the community. However, many have criticized the administration for failing to respond to their concerns following the discussion panels.

In an email to the student body, Provost Kumar, Senior Vice President Ennis and Senior Vice President Kasdin discussed their hopes that SB 793 will benefit the community.

“Our university police department proposal is incorporated into SB 793, and we believe that it will uphold the highest standards of transparent, constitutional, equitable and community-based policing,” administrators wrote. 

Since its introduction, SB 793 has been referred to the senate committee, which will organize a public hearing. 

If SB 793 is passed and enacted into law, the administration plans to commence negotiations between the University and the Baltimore Police Department to formulate a memorandum of understanding. The University plans to include input from the community during the negotiations by organizing at least two public forums. 

Recently, Senator Mary Washington of District 43 sponsored bill SB 0717, which would serve as an alternative to SB 973. Although SB 0717 would still authorize a campus police force, the bill would also place certain restrictions on the powers of campus police officers depending on the properties they patrol. 

Carissa Mattern, the legislative fellow for Mary Washington, said that the bill could function as a compromise between the wishes of the administration and those of students and faculty who are opposed to a campus police force.

“The bill has been proposed as another option for Hopkins since they put in the bill from last year, and while many are opposed to the idea of a private police force, this is an option that will not necessarily appease Hopkins but provide another option,” she said.

Susan Ridge, the University’s vice president for communications, noted that the proposals contained within the two bills express a shared commitment to improving public safety.

“We see important areas of common ground between the bills — most importantly, a recognition that fully sworn University police officers, at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, can make a meaningful contribution to public safety — and we look forward to working with the city delegation through the legislative process to establish the best approach,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter

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