Students Against Private Police continues its efforts to oppose the creation of a Johns Hopkins University private police force. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
I am writing to express my support for the Community Safety and Strengthening Act legislation that authorizes John Hopkins University to establish a university police department while also requiring initiatives to address the root causes of crime (“Kurt Schmoke: ‘perplexed’ by concerns over Johns Hopkins police force,” Feb. 22). As a longtime resident of East Baltimore, I believe that the various components of the legislation a holistic approach to improving the safety of the citizens in Baltimore.
During my 24 years in the state Senate and five years in the Baltimore City Council, I found Johns Hopkins to be a significant and important anchor institution in Baltimore, consistently looking for ways to improve our city. The relationship between the community and Hopkins, especially around the East Baltimore medical complex, has not always been easy, but I must say that we have been able to work through whatever differences existed. An example of this was the problematic introduction of this imitative near the end of the last legislative session. We had to table the proposal to give all parties concerned an opportunity to more thoroughly vet the proposal. For the past several months, significant progress, in my opinion, has been made. Is everyone happy? No, but that comes with the territory.
In many respects, as stated in the Sun editorial (“In key ways, Hopkins police would be more accountable than Baltimore police,” Feb. 14), this legislation would make the Hopkins force substantially more accountable than the Baltimore Police Department. It would provide an important platform for the development of what a reinvigorated Baltimore Police Department should look like. As pointed out by The Sun, it is very important to consider are the following:
Hopkins would be required to include civilian on trial boards for possible discipline against officers. It would be required to establish a separate accountability board comprised of students, faculty, staff and community members around each campus. Further, the legislation requires the new force to adopt community-oriented policing strategies and the new department could only exist with the approval of the Baltimore City administration and City Council, providing additional oversight and accountability.
The legislation also requires investment to address the root causes of negative behavior. Important commitments to our young people through summer and year-round employment opportunities and mentorship interactions are essential. Programs like Turn Around Tuesdays with the BUILD organization and Zion Baptist Church have resulted in over 500 ex-offenders becoming gainfully employed by the various Johns Hopkins entities.
In addition to all of the above and whatever other adjustments the General Assembly makes to enhance the legislation will only make it better. This new force paid for with Hopkins dollars and resources will free up officers to more effectively work in the neighborhoods around the Hopkins footprint. Finally, I think this legislation will result in a win-win for Hopkins and Baltimore.