A group of 101 Johns Hopkins University faculty members have signed a letter to the board of trustees opposing the plan to create an armed school police force.
The faculty members sent the letter to the university’s board members Jan. 13, laying out six detailed objections to what they call a “misconceived” plan. Among the grievances, signers were concerned the police force could reduce accountability and transparency to the public and reinforce an image of Hopkins as a “gated community.”
“If Johns Hopkins wants to cultivate better relations with its neighbors and with the City government, the creation of a private police department is exactly the wrong move," the letter states.
The 101 faculty members represent about 1.7% of the 6,000 faculty members across Hopkins’ three Baltimore campuses.
The letter echoes a similar statement signed by more than 60 faculty members in February 2019 opposing proposed state legislation to authorize creation of a university police force.
A university spokeswoman said in a statement that Hopkins officials are taking a “careful and deliberative approach to the establishment” of a police force.
“We appreciate that some of those who opposed the legislation last year continue to have concerns about the establishment of a police department, even as others are impatient for us to move more quickly as we all continue to grapple with high levels of violent crime across our city,” spokeswoman Karen Lancaster said in an email.
In April, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill allowing Hopkins to create a force of armed officers. The law authorizes Hopkins police to patrol within a tight perimeter around its Homewood academic campus, the medical campus in East Baltimore and the Peabody Institute conservatory in Mount Vernon.
The approval came amid heated community debates, student sit-ins and lobbying from the university.
Despite the university’s advances toward creating the police force, the faculty members are hopeful there’s still time to abandon the plan, said Toby Ditz, a professor at Hopkins’ Krieger School of Arts & Sciences who signed the letter.
“I don’t think it’s spitting in the wind or being unrealistic to make a principled stand against [university policing]," Ditz said.
Faculty members who signed the letter believe their message to the board comes at a turning point to stop implementation.
“JHU has not yet progressed very far with implementation,” signers said in a news release. “So it is still feasible to argue Hopkins can and should abandon its plan. But this may not remain true for much longer.”
Hopkins officials announced nominations in December for its police accountability board, which were then submitted to the Maryland State Senate for confirmation this legislative session.
A search is underway for a vice president of security before the university begins developing a memorandum of understanding with the Baltimore Police Department formalizing its police operations.
Once drafted, the MOU will be posted online and presented to the public in at least two forums. The City Council and other residents will have 30 days to review the proposal and submit comments.
A Johns Hopkins police force would join several other Baltimore schools that already have their own in place, including Morgan State University, Coppin State University, the University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Baltimore Sun reporter Talia Richman contributed to this article.