Baltimore’s mayor says she supports a plan in the works from Johns Hopkins University to establish a campus-wide private police force.
At her weekly press availability Wednesday morning, Catherine Pugh made the case for Hopkins to be allowed to create its own campus police department by pointing to public institutions.
“In Baltimore City and throughout the state of Maryland, the whole University of Maryland system has its own private security. Morgan State University has it. Coppin State University has it. University of Baltimore has it,” she said.
Such a change would free up resources for Baltimore police, she said. Police already patrol Charles Village and other areas of the city with Hopkins buildings and campuses.
“To the extent that these universities have their own police forces, it allows us to take our folks and focus them on the streets and in the neighborhoods. So I’m supportive of it.”
Of course, all of those schools are public institutions.
Under a pair of bills in the Maryland General Assembly, proposed by Del. Cheryl Glenn and Sen. Joan Carter Conway, “an independent institution of higher education in Baltimore City may establish a campus police force based on a memorandum of understanding entered into by the institution and the mayor or the police commissioner of Baltimore City.”
Glenn’s bill is set to go before the House Judiciary Committee this Friday, and Conway’s is due for a Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing next Tuesday.
As already reported by The Real News and The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, more than 100 students came out in full force against the idea at a protest last Thursday. Students reportedly learned about the plan from a March 5 email from university president Ronald J. Daniels, who also supports the proposal. Within hours they started a petition in opposition. It lists the potential for increased violence on campus, racial profiling, threats to free speech, “broken windows” policing and “Hopkins’ legacy of exploiting Baltimore citizens” as reasons to resist.
“We’ve seen a history of racial discrimination with Hop Cops — the way they categorize us, statements that have been made,” Black Student Union president Kwame Alston told The News-Letter. “We don’t feel as though that will make us as black students, the minorities, safer on this campus.”
Students and the rest of Baltimore learned of the plan only weeks after an announcement that former Baltimore Police Col. Melissa Hyatt is leaving the department to head up security for Hopkins, starting April 9.
“They couldn’t have picked a more suitable law enforcement professional as Melissa Hyatt who was recently appointed to oversee their full complement of security programs,” Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said in a statement to The Real News. “This will be a great public safety partnership for many years to come and it’s good not only for Johns Hopkins but the city overall.”
Police at Baltimore’s college campuses, who work in concert with city police, have been tied to a number of violent incidents in recent years, including the death of Tyrone West in 2013, which included a Morgan State police officer on the scene; a fatal shooting of a suspect by a Coppin State police officer in December 2016; and a chaotic exchange this past January in which an off-duty Morgan State police officer shot at, and missed, someone who fired a gun into the air outside the Mondawmin TGI Fridays.
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