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Hopkins, Baltimore Police sign memo cementing operating agreement between new campus police department and city force

The Johns Hopkins University on Friday released the finalized, signed memorandum of understanding between itself and the Baltimore Police Department, establishing a formal agreement for a new university police agency to patrol the school’s three campuses in the city.

The agreement, reached over the objections of some students, faculty and neighbors of the private school, was signed by city Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Hopkins Vice President for Public Safety Branville Bard Jr.

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The memo is a step, required under state law, in the process for Hopkins to field its own armed police department. The university released a draft of the memo in September, then hosted three town halls to gather community feedback about it. Protesters opposed to the department disrupted the two events that were held in person.

Baltimore City Councilmembers Antonio Glover and Odette Ramos also hosted a virtual town hall of their own this month, during which the two Democratic elected officials and community members asked questions and raised concerns.

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People opposed to the new department have expressed concerns about accountability by the private institution, overpolicing and the boundaries of where campus officers will operate, among other issues.

Campus police will operate at the university’s Homewood campus north of downtown, the Peabody Institute campus in midtown Baltimore and the East Baltimore site that is home to Hopkins hospital and medical school. Officers also can function on “the public property that is immediately adjacent to the campus,” according to the memo, including on sidewalks, streets and other roads and parking areas.

City police officials declined Friday to answer questions from The Baltimore Sun about the agreement, deferring to Johns Hopkins.

In an email to the Hopkins community, Bard announced that the memo had been signed and detailed the next steps. He said that over the next six to 12 months, Hopkins will move into an implementation phase. It will develop department policy, recruit and train officers, and establish operations. He said Hopkins will continue to gather community feedback during that time.

“The JHPD presents us with the opportunity and the obligation to build a small, model police department as one part of the Johns Hopkins’ holistic approach to public and community safety, which will continue to include our existing unarmed public safety team, support for members of our community experiencing behavioral health crises, and investments in community-driven programs for preventing violence and addressing the root causes of crime,” Bard wrote. “Through continued community dialogue and accountability, I am confident we can create a campus that is safer and at the same time welcoming to all.”

As recently as Wednesday, opponents of the Hopkins police force rallied on campus, though the small protest march was more subdued than past protests with one participant saying he had “very little hope at this point” of stopping its formation.

The Coalition Against Policing by Hopkins could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

In addition to releasing the signed memo, Hopkins shared a disposition report that includes comments from community members, responses from the university to them and how it sought to incorporate such input into the memo. And it released a report on the community’s feedback by 21CP Solutions, an organization overseeing implementation of a federal consent decree meant to improve the Baltimore Police Department.

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Comments the university included in the disposition report were sorted into three sections: memorandum recommendations, questions and comments on the campus police department or the memo, and general feedback. Eight community comments were grouped under “memorandum recommendations,” though not all led to changes included in the final memo. Changes that were made range from rephrasing to completely new additions.

Changes made for the final MOU

Reporting procedures

The Johns Hopkins Police Department will report traffic enforcement statistics, including traffic stop data, to the Baltimore Police Department. Hopkins police also will report all criminal offenses that occur in the campus area to city police.

Furthermore, the finalized memorandum states that a Hopkins police senior leadership member will provide operational updates to BPD by attending the city police force’s regular meetings.

Shared access and resources

Some changes to the memorandum grant further shared access between the police departments.

Hopkins and city police will share access to their body camera systems “for assistance in investigating any criminal or administrative matter.” The Johns Hopkins Police Department will make sure its system is compatible with that of city police.

The Baltimore police also agree to share access to its camera system “on or near the JHPD primary and concurrent jurisdiction for purposes of criminal and administrative investigations,” as well as its equipment. This includes, but is not limited, to barricades, remote lighting sources and the Emergency Services Unit.

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Separated obligations and liability

Each agency will now fund its own body camera expenses.

City police will handle “any crime that requires investigation by BPD’s Crime Lab and/or Homicide Division.”

A new section, titled “Limitation of Liability,” states “each party shall be responsible for its own actions and omissions, pursuant to the performance of this Agreement, and neither party shall try to hold the other liable with respect to any matter not arising from the other party’s actions or omissions.”

Additionally, city police hold the right to terminate the memorandum immediately “in the event of a state or federal judicial or governmental finding that JHPD has engaged in a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing.”

Training and compliance

Another new section, titled “Policies and Training Requirements,” details that Hopkins officers will undergo yearly training “in partnership with the BPD’s Equity Office and Educational and Training Unit related to Cultural Responsiveness and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Police Decision Making, or some similar training agreed upon by BPD’s Equity Office and Education and Training Unit and JHU.”

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Hopkins police also are required to “adopt and maintain a set of nationally recognized best practices” when it comes to topics such as de-escalation, use of force or law enforcement peer intervention. Hopkins can ask city police to help them establish such practices.

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Within Hopkins, its Office of Institutional Equity will be in charge of making sure campus police comply with university policy, as well as equal opportunity and discrimination laws.

21CP Solutions report counts mainly neutral, negative comments

The 21CP Solutions report summarized many of the themes in the community feedback, finding that most comments did not pertain specifically to the memo. Rather, input mainly focused on support or opposition to the creation of the police department and questions about policy, although some questions sought clarifications of points in the proposed agreement.

The report calculated a total of 263 unique comments. Slightly more than 40 comments were considered positive, while 103 were sorted as neutral and 117 as negative.

“The perspectives of JHU-affiliated individuals and Baltimore community members are diverse and nuanced,” the report reads. “They are rooted in differential experience, historical exposure to policing and JHU, and vantage point.”

The report found similar themes between the latest feedback period and one in 2018. They included “concern for public safety and protection from violent crime, opposition to the JHPD that is rooted in concerns about the abuses of power by police in Baltimore and nationally [and] support for JHU’s continued investment in violence reduction initiatives that address root causes of crime.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Darcy Costello contributed to this article.


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