Johns Hopkins University plans to fundamentally change policing in Baltimore. In a March 5th email to the student body, the university outlined its intentions to form a privately owned and operated police force. This police force would operate on the porous, poorly defined boundaries of Hopkins property. Hence (provided necessary legislation be passed into law), regular interactions with a private police force working for the interests of a private university, and not the surrounding community, may become commonplace in Baltimore.
In their efforts to form a private police force, Hopkins has opted to partner with the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD). Stated in the March 5th email:
"The [university police] department would be developed and implemented through a detailed agreement with BPD regarding the size, scope, training, and capabilities of a university police department."
Considering the controversial and improper conduct of the BPD in recent years – which has made national headlines – the degree to which the university would be ceding control over the structuring and training of a future police force to the BPD is more than alarming.
After the protests that followed Freddie Gray’s murder in 2015, the BPD has faced a scathing investigation by the Justice Department, record breaking murder rates, dramatic shifts in leadership, and a damning corruption case following the illegal actions of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF). Despite all of this, Johns Hopkins University still believes partnering with the BPD is the right course of action.
Aside from the highly publicized cases of corruption, the BPD has also come under fire for inadequate training of academy recruits. Interestingly, this criticism stems from within their own department. In a statement to the Sun, the head of the BPD academy’s legal instruction Sgt. Josh Rosenblatt raised significant concerns over the preparation and training of BPD recruits. In his opinion, a third of the most recent graduating academy class is ill-equipped to take the streets. Rosenblatt told the Sun, “We’re giving them a badge and a gun tomorrow, the right to take someone’s liberty, ultimately the right to take someone’s life if it calls for it, and they have not demonstrated they can meet [basic] constitutional and legal standards.”
Surprisingly, the fact that 17 out of 50 of the graduating recruits “failed to pass scenario-based practical tests on legal standards related to basic police work, such as the need for probable cause before making arrests,” is not the most startling aspect of the story. According to Rosenblatt, these recruits only passed “after he and other legal instructors were removed from administering tests.” Essentially, the BPD knowingly put a gun in the hands of and gave the right to take a life to individuals that have demonstrated an inability to meet the minimum legal standards to become an officer.
So, I ask you, how can a police force who deliberately puts poorly trained officers on the streets be trusted with administering the training for an entirely new private department? The answer: they can’t be. Johns Hopkins University’s decision to coordinate with the Baltimore City Police Department is not only shortsighted but irresponsible. If university leaders truly want to provide a safe and secure campus, they must focus less on “perceptions” of crime and focus more on issues like inadequate mental health resources and a culture of sexual assault, which actually threaten the wellbeing of students.
If you disagree with the formation of a private police force, you can express your disapproval by signing this petition: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScUyHR6WItJY71RUKW0JVGerWTsBhraUSRpaeLxDiYVBWlNBg/viewform
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