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ACLU argument against Hopkins police force makes no sense

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire ex-mayor of New York and major donor to Johns Hopkins, talks with reporters at the Maryland State House Tuesday about having an armed police force for the hospital and university. (Pamela Wood, Baltimore Sun video)

The ACLU of Maryland (of which I’ve been a proud member, since 1977) argues against a Johns Hopkins police force and makes the dumbest suggestion ever, that Hopkins’ unarmed security guards should just use their “common law” power to arrest. “This bill,” the ACLU claimed, is just about Hopkins not wanting to be “sued.”

Where to start? Unarmed security guards would be risking their life and limb to apprehend suspects. Security guards are not trained to make arrests safely and in compliance with the law. Security guards are poorly paid and cannot afford to be personally sued. When you’re sued for lots of money, it wrecks your credit and that prevents you from getting credit, renewing a lease, buying a car, buying a house, buying an appliance, getting a job, etc. In a tightening liability insurance market, universities are not only seeing higher premiums but real threats not to renew policies. Not even Lloyd’s of London will insure security guards for “common law” arrests.

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A security guard who pounces on some suspect risks getting his employer sued, and himself fired. Suspects can file their own criminal assault charges against the security guard, merely by swearing out a complaint before a commissioner, and even if the charge is dropped, the guard may have to pay for legal advice and go to court.

So poor security at or near Hopkins campuses is the fault of the unarmed security guards? I don’t think so!

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Brad Peabody, Baltimore

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