Johns Hopkins University is accepting applications for its police accountability board, which officials say is an important step toward creating the kind of transparent police force they promised.
The General Assembly in April empowered the Baltimore-based university to create a force of armed officers to patrol its Homewood academic campus, the medical campus in East Baltimore and the Peabody Institute conservatory in Mount Vernon. The legislation grew from the administration’s insistence that a stronger police presence was needed amid a spike in violent crime.
But it faced major opposition from those who think the police force will instead put students and community members at risk, particularly people of color. Students held a monthlong sit-in at the school’s main administration building to demand the university reverse its plan, a protest that only ended after police arrested seven people.
The accountability board was designed to ensure community voices are heard as the university pushes forward with the police force.
It’s unclear how soon Hopkins officers will begin patrolling the campuses. Officials expect it will be a multi-year implementation process, and it’s currently on hold until the university hires a new vice president for security.
“We are certainly several months away from actually hiring our first officer,” said Connor Scott, acting vice president for security.
Once a new leader is in place, the school expects to begin discussions with the Baltimore Police Department to develop a Memorandum of Understanding. Officials pledge the MOU process will be “open and transparent, with numerous opportunities for public input."
“Development of the JHPD is still in its early stages, but we are seeking to convene the Accountability Board now to ensure that our values and commitments are deeply embedded in the department from its inception,” seniors officials wrote in an October message to the community.
The accountability board will be composed of five community members who aren’t affiliated with the university, including at least one from each of the three areas the force may patrol: East Baltimore, Homewood and Peabody.
There will also be 10 members from Hopkins’ three campuses, including students and at least one member of the Johns Hopkins Black Faculty and Staff Association.
Members will be charged with reviewing department data, assessing policies and taking community concerns to leadership. Scott said the university is looking for people with diverse perspectives and from various backgrounds.
The deadline to apply for the board is Nov. 20. Applicants have to answer questions like, “What does community-oriented policing mean to you?”
A nominating committee will review the applications and submit a list of recommended candidates to university officials, who will then bring it to the Maryland Senate for confirmation during the next legislative session.