Johns Hopkins Delays Plans for Private Armed Police Force

JHU joins the growing list of school districts and colleges terminating contracts with police departments or reconsidering how they police their campuses.

Johns Hopkins Delays Plans for Private Armed Police Force

BALTIMORE, Md. — Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has delayed its plan to create a private armed police force amid nationwide protests regarding policing and racial injustice.

On Friday, JHU President Ronald Daniels said school officials decided to freeze everything for at least two years and participate in the discussion of police reform, reports The Baltimore Sun.  

“We want to pause and see to what extent changes both at the federal and state level, and in the broad framework of policing and additional accountability, would impact anything that we would do at Hopkins,” Daniels said. “We are committing to a moratorium for two years. During that time, we’re very open to working to see how alternative approaches to public safety might work out, and to what extent they impact the need for sworn policing and the character of sworn policing.”

There is currently a group of armed off-duty Baltimore police officers and sheriff’s deputies who the university pays to patrol near its campuses. The new plan called for ending those contracts and deploying as many as 100 sworn officers to patrol its three campuses — something both students and faculty have voiced disapproval of for years.

In 2018, the group Students Against Private Police rallied in opposition to the plan. In Feb. 2019, more than 60 faculty members signed an open letter in opposition, writing that armed police officers could pose an increased safety risk and “inevitably amplify the climate of fear and justify their roles by citing stops, arrests and detainments.”

The letter also voiced concerns for the nonwhite student population, writing, “Black and brown students and Baltimoreans are already disproportionately targeted. Private police on campus are likely to exacerbate racial profiling, with even more dangers and potentially fatal consequences.”

Students and faculty have also contended that private police are less accountable than the Baltimore Police Department and a poll conducted by the Student Government Association showed 75% of JHU undergraduates were against the legislation.  

In May 2019, students locked down the main administrative building in a monthlong sit-in and several students chained themselves to a stairway to protest the force and school officials’ cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

More recently, on June 9, faculty members began circulating an online petition calling on Daniels and the Board of Trustees to abandon the plan altogether. Within the first week, there were over 5,700 signatures.

“Even if the university were to create a model police force, which by the way I think is a bit of hubris, the movement against over-policing is a movement against the creation and proliferation and sprawl of special police forces,” said Toby Ditz, professor emeritus of history at the Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts & Sciences. “We do not want to multiply special police forces and armed police forces on campuses.”

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy’s mother, brother, sister-in-law and a handful of cousins are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her husband, her son and her dog.

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2 responses to “Johns Hopkins Delays Plans for Private Armed Police Force”

  1. Tim Hall says:

    Growing up and living in a college town, I have seen first hand how University Police Departments differ from Municipal and County departments. If run correctly, and the right officer is hired, these Officers can be and oftentimes are a valuable asset to both the university and community. Let’s face it, they are still police officers who are duty bound to serve and protect their community, but there is a different approach to how they do it. I’ve seen Campus Police who could have cited or even arrested a student, but instead counseled the student on why their behavior or action is against the law. Most Campus Officers are more of a counselor than a police officer.

    On the opposite side of things, response times to on campus buildings are not as long as a municipal department. Given the rise in mass shootings, a fast response is what you need. We need to also take into account that a city officer may not be used to the campus’ geography, which could also hinder response times to a major incident. Campus Officers know the campus and know how to get to different places quickly, even on foot.

  2. Dan Alvarez says:

    A few years back I conducted a study of a high school district’s use of resource officers (Police Officers) in the schools and use of these officers at football games. The results were not good. K12 school districts do not need armed police officers stationed on their campuses.

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