With the stroke of his pen, Gov. Larry Hogan today authorized the formation of an armed police force with as many as 100 officers for three Johns Hopkins University campuses in Baltimore.
Flanked by Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and House Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones, Hogan signed that bill and 194 others into law this morning, including legislation to overhaul the ethically fraught University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors, require the Baltimore Police Department to assess its nine districts’ boundaries after every census and more.
The signing of the Hopkins police force bill, which Hogan had already said he supported during the legislative session, comes during the second week of a student sit-in and a series of protests at and around the Homewood campus. Students and professors have called on the university to drop its plan, which Hopkins lobbied for unsuccessfully last year, only to win the approval of most, if not all, of the city delegation and mayor’s office during the 2019 session.
In addition to permitting armed JHU cops, which Hopkins has said will help to fight an uptick in crime on its campuses, the bill: subjects the new department to the Maryland Public Information Act, requires officers to wear body cameras, creates an accountability board to review police data, training and more, as well as a hearing board for police misconduct cases; restricts Hopkins police to investigating thefts (including of motor vehicles) and burglaries, and allows them to patrol surrounding communities if they have the blessing of neighborhood groups or are in “fresh pursuit” of a suspect. (More on the specifics with this comprehensive Baltimore Beat piece, or check the bill text here.)
Hopkins president Ronald Daniels today said he’s grateful for Hogan’s signature.
“We believe this law represents the most comprehensive and progressive legal standards for community and university policing anywhere,” he said in a statement. “We also understand that differences of opinion remain on this topic, and we are firmly committed to working with our students, staff, faculty and neighbors to continue hearing varying viewpoints and to ensure public accountability, public transparency and public input within a JHPD.
“Working together, we will strive to create a model of constitutional community policing that reflects our community’s values of diversity, equity and respect.”
Two days ago, students participating in the sit-in filmed Daniels walking away from them on campus while they tried to engage him on their demands.
Baltimore Fishbowl has reached out to Students Against Private Police, which helped organize the ongoing protest, for comment on the bill’s enactment. Students have noted that just because Hopkins is now authorized to have its own police force—a new law was necessary for the school because it’s a private institution, not a public one—doesn’t mean it has to follow through.
In addition to students and faculty, numerous neighborhood associations and Baltimore community groups opposed the legislation, and saw their views represented by two senators and five delegates who voted against the bill in Annapolis.
Hopkins has defended its engagement with the locals, noting today that its negotiation process included “more than 125 community meetings, three legislative hearings, 18 amendments, and more than nine hours of testimony” in Annapolis. Some community groups, including the Charles Village Civic Association and Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association, did endorse the plan.
Hogan also signed into law a UMMS-focused bill that he said is “much-needed,” and has received lots of attention after its sponsor, Sen. Jill Carter (41st District) tipped off The Sun to some improper dealings between nine of the hospital system’s 30 unpaid board members and the organization. Mayor Catherine Pugh was infamously among that group, having reached a $500,000 deal for UMMS to distribute 100,000 copies of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books to local schools and daycares.
It was later discovered that Pugh had also struck other deals for her books with health insurance firms, for whom she approved city contracts, or businesspeople tied to companies that got deals with the city. Known payments now total around $800,000.
Pugh has been out on indefinite, paid leave since April 1, which she’s attributing to her ongoing recovery from a bout of pneumonia. A handful of her aides have also been put on leave under an administration now helmed by Ex Officio Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.
Hogan also enacted a long-sought bill requiring BPD to review its district boundaries. Sen. Cory McCray (45th District) previously told Baltimore Fishbowl those lines hadn’t been redrawn for decades, and elected officials have concerns about the allocation of police resources in districts with disparate populations and calls for service.
Members of the Baltimore City Council have been pushing for a redrawing of boundaries for some time. In 2016, the council approved a resolution calling for such a change at the state level; BPD remains a state-controlled agency, and will remain that way for at least another year after a failed push by the city delegation to change that this spring.
Councilman Brandon Scott (2nd District), chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said in February, “this is an issue that has been brought up by every councilman in Northeast Baltimore from Ken Harris on down to me.” His district in particular has around 20,000 more calls for service annually than the eight others, he said.
“For [districts] to not be able to have the resources that they need and deserve, simply because we haven’t had the political will or the leadership in Baltimore to redistrict, is a travesty,” he said.
The change means BPD will reconsider its boundaries for the first time in more than half a century after the upcoming 2020 Census.
Hogan also signed legislation designating June 28 as Maryland’s Freedom of the Press Day, in honor of five slain Capital Gazette employees, and pertaining to human trafficking, drunk driving and more. Here’s the full list from this morning’s ceremony.
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