Public safety

Finalized MOU sets stage for next phase in development of university police department

The publicly available document incorporates the majority of community feedback and is accompanied by separate reports detailing the university's response to more than 250 comments submitted by the community

After an extensive community engagement process that included a two-month period for public and Baltimore City Council review and comment as well as several open community forums, Johns Hopkins University has finalized a memorandum of understanding with the Baltimore Police Department, the latest step in the process of creating a small, model university police department to bolster safety on and around JHU's campuses.

The final 23-page MOU document, initially released in draft form in September, has been revised to reflect community feedback received over the past two months. During that period, the university hosted three open community town halls and conducted nearly 30 individual and small group meetings, and two City Council members hosted as town hall as well. In all, more than 250 comments and questions were submitted by the community.

"Your feedback has been invaluable, helping to inform and directly shape the final MOU, and we will continue to turn to our community for your ideas and engagement as we build the future of public safety in the Hopkins community."
Branville Bard
Vice president for public safety

Its completion will usher in a new phase in the development of the Johns Hopkins Police Department, Branville Bard, vice president for public safety for Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, wrote in a message to the Hopkins community today, as the focus shifts to the development of departmental policy and procedures and the recruitment and training of officers.

"I want to thank our community of neighbors, students, faculty, and staff for taking the time to participate in this important process," Bard wrote. "Your feedback has been invaluable, helping to inform and directly shape the final MOU, and we will continue to turn to our community for your ideas and engagement as we build the future of public safety in the Hopkins community."

The MOU, like that of other university police departments across the country, spells out key operational details of the JHPD, including jurisdictional boundaries, the use of body worn cameras, arrests, warrants, investigations, and hiring.

The document describes:

  • State-mandated public reporting, training, policy development, and third-party accreditation requirements
  • Exemptions from state immunity protections
  • Local hiring and recruitment targets
  • Multiple layers of public accountability and oversight, including the Johns Hopkins University Police Accountability Board

In addition to making the final MOU public, the university shared an independent report created by outside experts at 21CP Solutions, a consulting group that helps cities and communities transform the delivery of equitable and integrity-driven public safety services. That report summarizes the MOU community engagement process and the feedback received. JHU also published a separate document listing each of the more than 250 comments and questions received during the feedback period along with notes on how that feedback is being addressed.

Nearly all of the MOU-related feedback received was incorporated into the final document, Bard wrote, including new language clarifying that:

  • The JHPD will not be dispatched to all calls; Johns Hopkins Public Safety will continue to deploy unarmed public safety officers and the Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team when appropriate, and the JHPD will only be dispatched to calls requiring a police response
  • The JHPD's expanded police powers during a declared emergency will be time-limited, ending once that emergency declaration concludes
  • JHPD's body worn camera policy will ensure the protection of confidential, private, or sensitive data

In the months ahead, the public will have additional opportunities to provide feedback in the development of the many policies and procedures that will guide the operations of the JHPD. Bard said he expected the JHPD implementation phase to last for approximately six to 12 months and added that there would continue to be opportunities for members of the community to provide input and feedback.

"The JHPD presents us with the opportunity and the obligation to build a small, model police department as one part of the Johns Hopkins' holistic approach to public and community safety, which will continue to include our existing unarmed public safety team, support for members of our community experiencing behavioral health crises, and investments in community-driven programs for preventing violence and addressing the root causes of crime," Bard wrote.

"Through continued community dialogue and accountability, I am confident we can create a campus that is safer and at the same time welcoming to all."