Baltimore residents ask circuit court to nullify Johns Hopkins memo for private police

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Several dozens of Johns Hopkins University students join the Coalition Against Hopkins Policing in a rally to protest against the university creating a private, armed police force.
Nov. 30, 2022.

Three Baltimore residents are once again suing the Johns Hopkins University concerning the creation of a private, armed police force on campus.

Donald Gresham, Kushan Ratnayake and Joan Floyd filed Dec. 30 with the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, asking the court to nullify the memorandum of understanding signed by Hopkins and the Baltimore Police Department on Dec. 2. The memorandum is a key document outlining the jurisdictions between the two entities and allows Hopkins to proceed with further creation of its force.


“We are reviewing the complaint and generally do not comment on pending litigation, but we can say that the university is fully confident in the thoughtful statutory process the General Assembly set out for the development and operation of the Johns Hopkins Police Department,” said Hopkins spokesperson Megan Christin. “As we move into the implementation phase of the JHPD development, we continue to take seriously our opportunity and obligation to build a model, progressive police department.”


Hopkins’ police force has been a controversial issue for the past few years in a split between desire to address nearby crime and fear of police power abuse on and around campus. In the fall, protests ramped up as the university attempted to host town halls to discuss the memorandum and address questions and concerns. In-person town halls were shut down by protesters, and conversations were continued online, though limited.

In September, Gresham, Ratnayake and Floyd sued the university and the police force in an attempt to prevent the two entities from signing the memorandum. The residents dropped their suit after the document was signed.

The latest complaint from the plaintiffs states that the memorandum “amounts to a secret handshake between BPD and an institution that intends to operate its own armed police force.”

“What this MOU attempts to establish is not a ‘campus police force’ but rather an armed occupation whose jurisdiction and power should strike fear into the residents of Baltimore City,” said Ratnayake in a news release.

The plaintiffs argue that BPD is under local control as of Jan. 1 because Question H, which asked voters if they wanted to transfer control of the police department from the state to the city, passed in November. The memorandum identifies BPD as an entity of the state, so the plaintiffs argue the memorandum should no longer stand.

“Hopkins rushed to make a deal with BPD before the end of 2022, and the result doesn’t hold up to scrutiny,” said Floyd in a news release.