Hopkins president: 'Brazenness' of crime means university likely to renew push for campus police force

Johns Hopkins President Ron Daniels told members of the Baltimore City Council Thursday that he expects the university to seek authorization from the General Assembly to create its own police force, reviving an effort that failed after community leaders said the school sprang the idea on them.

“Although we are thinking about a number of different options, I think the high likelihood is that in a month’s time, we will formally petition the assembly once again to create this force,” Daniels told the council at a public briefing about the university’s plans.

While it’s common for private universities in other states to have police forces, the Hopkins plan faced questions this spring over whom its officers would be accountable to and how they would treat residents — especially those in heavily black East Baltimore neighborhoods around the university’s hospital.

Since legislation to permit the force failed earlier this year at the legislature, Daniels said Hopkins leaders have been talking to community leaders on and off campus, as well as politicians, about why the university needs its own force of sworn officers.

Daniels told the council members that it isn’t just the rising crime around the medical and academic campuses that calls for a police force on top of the university’s more than 1,000 security officers.

“It’s the brazenness of it,” he said, highlighting daytime crimes committed in front of witnesses.

Daniels said the university expects to release a final report on its consultations before the end of the year, with a draft of the legislation coming soon after.

Several council members told Daniels they wanted to see more data and written plans about the department.

Councilman Kristerfer Burnett recalled being a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, and getting pulled over for minor violations by both campus and Prince George’s County police. Burnett told Daniels he wanted to know how the university would ensure the officers treat people fairly, so that his experience is not repeated.

“I really need to see what the plan looks like around constitutional policing,” Burnett said.

Daniels said the proposed legislation would enshrine the principles of the Baltimore Police Department’s federal consent decree, which requires that department to undertake civil rights reforms.

He acknowledged missteps in the way the university initially pursued the idea that led to what he called a “backlash.”

“We’re being very careful not to move with the same sense of rapidity,” Daniels said.

He outlined plans for a 100-officer force, recruited over three to five years. The effort would be led by Melissa Hyatt, a former Baltimore police colonel who is Hopkins’ head of security.

“What we’re talking about is an important addition to a capacity, but this is not going to going to turn Hopkins or the neighborhoods around it into a militarized police state,” Daniels said.

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