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Johns Hopkins University to discontinue public safety leadership program

A Johns Hopkins University program that trained public safety officials in leadership and management is being discontinued, school administrators said.

The Division of Public Safety Leadership, run out of Hopkins’ School of Education and comprised of four degree programs, accepted its last cohort of students in January. Dean Christopher C. Morphew anticipates the final group of students will finish their programs no later than December 2019.

“Until that date, our leadership, faculty, and staff will ensure that PSL students receive the academic excellence and rigor you and they have come to expect from a Johns Hopkins’ program,” Morphew wrote in an email to program alumni.

Morphew, who assumed his role in August, cited the program’s declining enrollment, high faculty turnover and lack of programmatic focus in making his decision.

There were 99 students enrolled in the four bachelor’s and master’s degree programs this fall, down from more than 250 students in the 2008-2009 academic year. The public safety leadership program, started in 1994, was one of the first of its kind but has faced more competition for students in recent years as more universities started offering similar programs.

Some students who are currently enrolled say Hopkins is turning its back on the programs at a time when strong leadership in the public safety sector is needed more than ever. They say that’s especially important in Baltimore, where the police department is facing one of the largest corruption scandals in the city’s history.

“My personal fear is that there is going to be a void left in this field that is not going to be filled,” said Sgt. Kyle Bodenhorn, a police officer enrolled in the program. “Johns Hopkins sits in the center of a city that has one of the world’s worst relationships with police. Here we are removing one of the biggest tools we have to solve that problem and teach future leaders how to help.”

Graduates of the program have gone on to lead police departments, fire departments and other public safety agencies. Former Baltimore police commissioner Kevin Davis, who the mayor recently fired, is an alumnus of the program.

Theresa Ridgley enrolled in the Public Safety Leadership division when she was working at the Maryland Department of Health. She said it’s invaluable to have a program that brings together employees of various public safety fields, who can learn from each other’s experiences.

Morphew said he understands the need for high quality education related to public safety leadership, especially in a city like Baltimore. University officials are looking into “next steps” and consulting alumni about how to meaningfully continue the work, though Morphew declined to discuss specifics. He said he would act quickly and build on Hopkins’ vast resources.

“The closure of this program should not be seen as a signal that this is not an important mission for the university or that we’re stepping away from that mission,” he said. “I don’t see us stepping away from our mission.”

trichman@baltsun.com

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