Chanting “No justice, no peace! No private police!,” student protesters this afternoon interrupted a vote by the city’s House delegation on whether to endorse a bill to give Johns Hopkins University its own police force.
Video posted on social media shows a police officer putting his hands on several of the more than half dozen protesters and ejecting the group from the hearing room.
Police force protesters to leave pic.twitter.com/YVRuHSSnfC
— David Collins (@dcollinsWBAL) March 12, 2019
— Barae Hirsch (@BaraeHirsch) March 12, 2019
Members voted 9-4 to support the measure, with three delegates marked either absent or “excused,” per The Sun‘s Luke Broadwater.
In a statement, Students Against Private Police said its members felt the need to disrupt the hearing over “what has become a fundamentally undemocratic and rushed process on a bill that will directly and irreversibly affect thousands of Baltimore citizens.”
Citing dissenting views of the police force from neighborhood associations near Hopkins buildings, dozens of faculty members, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, among others, the student group reiterated that the legislation would add more officers “to an over-policed city” and criticized the bill for lacking details.
“SAPP is disappointed that despite these reasons and the overwhelming constituent outcry against this bill, delegates have continued to listen to Johns Hopkins rather than Baltimoreans and move forward with a slightly amended bill that still gives Johns Hopkins everything it has asked for on a silver platter,” the statement said. “It is with disbelief that we observe the body give up their own jurisdiction over a critical governmental power.”
Earlier in the hearing, Rep. Elijah Cummings testified in favor of the bill, saying it would help the Baltimore Police Department stem the tide of homicides. And there are other key supporters in Mayor Catherine Pugh, newly sworn-in Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and Hopkins alum/major donor Michael Bloomberg.
Baltimore’s Senate delegation narrowly endorsed the bill last week after tacking on amendments to limit the area officers could patrol, require a quarter of them to live in the city and make information from the department subject to the Maryland Public Information Act.
The bill would allow the academic and medical giant to create its own police force to patrol its campuses and streets and parking facilities adjacent to them. Officers would primarily be tasked with policing thefts and burglaries, but they may also work in conjunction with the BPD.
As part of the bill, Hopkins would have to train officers in constitutional policing and create an Accountability Board made up of students, faculty, staff and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods to review the department’s operations and data.
Other provisions call for state investments in youth programs and community development projects, and for Hopkins to start at least one Police Athletic League center.
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