A group of Baltimore residents fighting the creation of an armed Johns Hopkins University police force faces a key deadline this week in its effort to put the issue on the 2020 ballot.
Women Against Private Police, which formed a ballot issue committee to fight the creation of the Hopkins force, has until Friday to turn in approximately 23,000 signatures to state elections officials.
Joan L. Floyd, the group’s treasurer, said she did not know how many signatures have been collected so far.
The organization issued a news release Tuesday morning encouraging voters across Maryland to join their effort. Organizers said there are two ways to sign:
<<Voters can download and print a petition page from www.womenagainstprivatepolice.org and mail it to WAPP at P.O. Box 13052, Baltimore, MD, 21203, to arrive by May 31.
<<Volunteers are canvassing and voters can sign the petition if approached by a canvasser. Anyone over the age of 18 may circulate the petition using materials provided by WAPP, organizers said.
If the group hits its first deadline for signatures, it has until June 30 to collect the rest of the nearly 70,000 needed to keep a new state law permitting the Johns Hopkins police force from going into effect July 1. If the petitioners are successful, the matter would instead be placed on the 2020 ballot for voters to decide.
“This is another opportunity for us, as a Black people in the community, to feel that we will be now either racial profiled or looked under a microscope,” said Donald Gresham, a longtime East Baltimore activist and resident, in the statement released by the group.
Both chambers of the General Assembly, dominated by Democrats, had passed the legislation.
The Senate voted 42-2 to approve the final version of the bill, dubbed the “Community Safety and Strengthening Act.” The two votes against came from Baltimore Democrats Mary Washington and Jill P. Carter, who expressed deep reservations about allowing the creation of a police force for a private institution.
The House of Delegates voted 94-42 vote in favor.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, signed the Hopkins police bill last month.
Some students and other activists have fiercely opposed the plan, holding numerous protests, including a monthlong sit-in on Hopkins’ Homewood academic campus.
The law enables Hopkins to establish a police force of up to 100 armed officers that would patrol in defined areas around the Homewood campus, its medical campus in East Baltimore and the Peabody Institute conservatory in Mount Vernon. The patrol areas include adjacent public, residential streets; the borders of the areas cling to the school’s property in some cases, and in others, extend a block or so beyond them.
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The law also requires the state to provide millions of dollars in funding to community programs in Baltimore.