Johns Hopkins works to amend public safety bill based on student, community feedback

Changes formalize key details of plans for university police department, put processes in place to ensure transparency, accountability, and time for public review and comment

Johns Hopkins University leadership is working closely with Maryland lawmakers to amend a proposed bill that would permit the university to join its public university peers in Baltimore in establishing its own police department. Changes to the bill would formalize key details of the university's plans and reflect important feedback from faculty, students, staff, neighbors, and community organizations.

"These changes will allow us to reach our goal of building a model university police department that reflects the highest standards and best practices of policing nationally. We remain committed to continuing these conversations with our neighbors and stakeholders."
Ronald J. Daniels
President, Johns Hopkins University

Importantly, passage of the legislation introduced in Annapolis would be only the first step in a comprehensive process. The university would still need to enter into a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the city and engage in further consultation with community members before establishing a university police department. Some of the proposed changes to the bill would codify specific moments for this community consultation, including a 30-day period for the public to comment on the draft MOU before final MOU negotiations.

"The amendments we are proposing respond to some of the thoughtful and considered questions and feedback from members of our community through one-on-one calls, information sessions, meetings, rallies, and other community forums," Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels said. "These changes will allow us to reach our goal of building a model university police department that reflects the highest standards and best practices of policing nationally. We remain committed to continuing these conversations with our neighbors and stakeholders."

The proposed amendments establish a number of formal processes that would ensure transparency, accountability, and best practices.

Highlights of the amended legislation include:

  • Limitations on the scope of the bill to Johns Hopkins University only and on the jurisdiction of the university police force to campuses at Homewood, Peabody, and East Baltimore
  • A fully open and consultative process for developing the MOU, including a public review and comment period, and extensive community input
  • The filing of an annual report to the general public and to city and state authorities that will include data and demographic information regarding the size of the department, stops, arrests, use of force, and complaints against officers
  • The creation of a university police advisory board composed of students, faculty, staff, and community members, with an annual open meeting, to provide oversight on university police policies and procedures
  • The promotion of the recruitment and hiring of diverse and local candidates as sworn officers

Additionally, revised language in the bill would ensure that a Johns Hopkins police department is committed to the adoption of policies, practices, and training that ensure constitutional, community-oriented policing. This would include following best practices on matters such as impartial and nondiscriminatory policing, de-escalation and appropriate use of force, and sound approaches to individuals with mental health issues or other challenges.

The amended bill remains a work in progress, and the university intends to continue gathering input through the Campus Safety and Security website, individual conversations, and larger public forums and community meetings.

The university is working with state lawmakers to secure passage of the bill before Maryland's legislative session concludes on April 9, so that this proposal to improve public safety can continue to be developed without delaying another year.

The public safety benefits of university police have been studied recently by leading criminologists. Two studies of specific university police departments—one reviewing the University of Pennsylvania Police Department, or UPPD, and the other reviewing the University of Chicago Police Department, or UCPD—found that the presence of university police had a significant impact on reducing crime rates on and near campus.

For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, between 2005 and 2010, researchers found that UPPD presence was associated with a 60 percent decrease in violent crime, a 55 percent decrease in property crime, and a 46 percent decrease in street crime within the campus patrol boundary. The study also found that neighborhoods outside the UPPD patrol boundary were safer the closer they were to that boundary.

In Chicago, the presence of UCPD had a large long-term impact on crime, particularly violent crime, around the university. For example, from 2004 to 2012, an increased UCPD presence was associated with 63 percent fewer violent crimes inside the patrol boundary than outside it. Areas patrolled by both city police and UCPD saw even lower crime rates.

The university has worked closely with city leaders over the past several months, in addition to visiting peer institutions—including the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago—to explore the possibility of adding a university police department that would complement existing security efforts. University leadership has heard from students, faculty, staff, and members of the Baltimore community, via an online feedback form on the JHU security website and via public forums and community meetings.

Public universities in Baltimore—including the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Baltimore; Morgan State University; and Coppin State University—already maintain university police departments, as do most public universities and private research universities across the country.

Johns Hopkins currently has a multilayered security program that relies on campus and contract security officers, as well as off-duty Baltimore police officers. University police officers would be a component of that program, but the majority of security officers would remain unarmed, patrolling the streets and the campuses as they do now.

For more information and regular updates about efforts to establish a university police force at Johns Hopkins, including answers to frequently asked questions, visit the Campus Safety and Security website.