Last update: August 23, 2022
NOTE: We announced on June 12, 2020 that Johns Hopkins would pause implementation of the Johns Hopkins Police Department for at least two years. During that time, the university engaged in conversations about rethinking the appropriate boundaries and responsibilities of policing, and tapped into the energies, expertise, and efforts of our community in advancing the agenda for consequential and enduring reform. And we want to be able to work now — with a sense of shared purpose and commitment with our neighbors and across our university community — to develop these alternative approaches.
What is the current status of the JHPD effort?
Following the conclusion of the two-year pause in June 2022, the university began the gradual and thoughtful process to build the JHPD. One of the first steps in that sequence is the drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Baltimore Police Department. Such agreements are the usual way that university police departments and city police departments put on paper their agreement and understandings around how they will work together to protect the area.
In September, we plan to share the draft MOU with the JH Accountability Board and our broader community, including our neighbors, for feedback. That will then launch an extensive MOU community engagement process, which will include:
- A 30-day public comment period after which the city council will have 30 days to review the draft MOU and provide written comments;
- Three public town halls, which will be opportunities for our community of students, faculty, staff, and neighbors to learn more about the MOU; and
- A series of individual and small group meetings with Vice President for Public Safety Branville Bard to discuss the MOU and the JHPD implementation timeline.
We encourage members of our community to participate in these events and share feedback on our website.
Why did Johns Hopkins seek to establish a university police department?
Johns Hopkins sought the legislative authorization to build a police department in order to improve our ability to respond to our community’s growing public safety needs.
We believe that every member of the Hopkins community, including our neighbors, deserves to feel safe. Just as we cannot accept the persistent levels of violent crime that leave a legacy of trauma and prevent communities from thriving, we cannot accept anything less than the highest standards of constitutional, equitable, and accountable law enforcement.
Through evidence-based, community-driven, and innovative approaches to public safety, the JHPD will be a small part of our broader 1,000-person public safety organization. (It is limited by state law to no more than 100 personnel.) It will replace the use of off-duty Baltimore police officers on our campuses and help to reduce the strain on the city’s resources while also advancing and modeling equitable and reform-oriented public safety strategies.
Did the university consider the potential disparate impact of policing on minorities and minority communities in its decisions about the JHPD?
Yes. Considerations regarding how a sworn police department could impact our minority communities have always been and will remain critically important in how we approach and plan for the unique model of transparent, community-based policing encompassed in the Community Safety and Strengthening Act. We are sensitive to Baltimore City’s history regarding efforts to address violent crime, which unfortunately includes episodes of law enforcement perpetuating rather than preventing violence, particularly in communities of color. We also acknowledge the perspective of those critical of the university’s efforts to address crime and economic disparities in the neighborhoods surrounding our campuses, and we examined those issues here at length (one example is our discussion panel on these and related issues).
This awareness was a significant backdrop for the legislative framework allowing the creation of a JHPD. Through both historical and forward-looking lenses, we set out to create a very different kind of police department, one that will be further informed by the current national, regional, and local conversation around racial justice and policing. We have an opportunity to build, from the ground up, a new public safety operation, one that fosters trust and prioritizes procedural justice in all interactions with our community, in any form that operation may take.
How will you prevent the racial profiling that other university police departments have been criticized for, and how would you address officer misconduct?
Racial and ethnic profiling at Johns Hopkins or elsewhere is wholly unacceptable. It undermines community safety and well-being and is antithetical to constitutional community policing. We unequivocally believe that safety and security go hand in hand with respect for civil rights and civil liberties, and we will hold our public safety team accountable to that standard. Racial and ethnic profiling is a serious concern across the nation, and we view the creation of a new police department as an opportunity to create a best-in-class model that serves as an example of how to prevent and avoid bad police practices.
The central test of a community-oriented, harm-reducing public safety operation is how its officers treat those they encounter. Johns Hopkins will require training in appropriate searches, combating implicit bias, and preventing racial profiling, which can impact decisions about whom to stop and how invasive a stop will be.
Our commitments also include recruiting officers with a track record of positively serving diverse communities, establishing clear rules and training for officer-civilian interactions that emphasize respect for all people, requiring officers to identify themselves and explain the JHPD complaint process, and using tracking and data analysis of stops to identify and address any inappropriate treatment of minorities. In addition, the Community Safety and Strengthening Act requires that JHPD officers use body-worn cameras to promote officer accountability and transparency.
These priorities were also reflected in our search for a new public safety leader at Johns Hopkins. Vice President for Public Safety Branville Bard is an outspoken advocate of police reform who has publicly called for a reckoning related to racial justice and has a proven track record of creating change within public safety operations. Bard’s Doctor of Public Administration dissertation focused on strategies to eliminate racial profiling, and as chief of police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he launched a public-facing dashboard to proactively monitor data on police-citizen interactions for indications of possible racial profiling or biased policing. Bard plans to launch a similar database for public safety operations at Johns Hopkins.
Will the university police department be trained in how to handle incidents involving sexual assault?
Yes. The ability to design a police department from the ground up to address the issues confronting a university community is a strong corollary to our ongoing efforts to prevent and address sexual assault and misconduct
Today, members of the Johns Hopkins Public Safety team—including future university-based police officers—are required to understand the Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures; to complete training in sexual assault issues and incidents; and to fully inform any potential victims about their options, including those available within the university process. The university maintains a daily crime log, issues public safety notices and delivers annual Clery Act and Office of Institutional Equity reports that provide data to the public on reported sexual misconduct.
Future university police officers will be trained to work with individuals reporting sexual misconduct. As with all serious crimes, if the victim chooses to report a sexual assault for criminal investigation, the university police officers will be able to assist in an investigation as an alternative to going directly to the BPD. The university police will also work closely with the JHU Office of Institutional Equity to ensure compliance with the JHU Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures.
What kind of training will university police officers receive on diversity, community policing, and related issues?
Training for the JHPD will meet the rigorous standards set forth in the legislation and be consistent with the core values of our institution, including free expression, diversity, equity, inclusion, accountability, and transparency. State law requires the JHPD to provide training that:
- Advances impartial and nondiscriminatory policing, including training on conducting appropriate searches, avoiding implicit bias against racial, religious, sexual, and other minorities
- Ensures appropriate use of force and safe treatment of individuals in custody
- Supports the lawful exercise of rights of free expression, particularly in the context of a university community
- Promotes appropriate interactions with youth and individuals who are in crisis, are neurodivergent, or have a behavioral health condition or disabilities
- Builds trust between victims of sexual assault and the JHPD
In addition to those training requirements mandated in the law, Johns Hopkins has also made the commitment to require all newly hired officers to complete training on the following topics:
- Cultural and LGBTQ+ awareness and competence
- Community policing, including understanding community expectations and reservations around policing in the city
- Procedural justice in police-citizen interactions
- Active bystandership in policing
- De-escalation techniques
- Crisis intervention, including detecting behavior that calls for a medical and/or mental health intervention rather than a traditional law enforcement intervention
- Collaborating with nonpolice university resources, including mental health practitioners
- Trauma-informed practices for police-citizen contacts, including contacts with youth and victims of sexual assault
- Understanding youth brain development, youth trauma, and the impacts of police interactions on youth
- Alternatives to arrest, particularly for youth
- Free expression in university environments
- Clery Act and Title IX
We will require our officers to undergo supervised field training that includes an introduction to community leaders, particularly of underserved or traditionally marginalized communities in or near their service area. And we will ensure that training occurs regularly to reinforce important lessons and teach new ones.
How will you ensure the accountability and transparency of a Johns Hopkins Police Department within the community?
We are dedicated to creating a police department that is public-facing, public-serving, and publicly accountable. Importantly, in addition to our commitment to progressive policing policies, including those recommended in the model policy proposed by the ACLU of Massachusetts in the 2021 “Racially Just Policing: A Model Policy for Colleges and Universities” and the Obama Administration’s 2015 “Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the JHPD will be subject to multiple layers of state-mandated accountability mechanisms, including:
- Johns Hopkins University Police Accountability Board: The 15-member Johns Hopkins Police Accountability Board is composed of students, faculty, staff, and community members and enables community members to share feedback regarding the university police department directly with department leadership. The board is also responsible for reviewing department metrics, providing feedback on existing department policies and practices, and offering recommendations for improving those policies and practices.
- State-Mandated Complaint Investigation and Disciplinary Process: The JHPD falls within the jurisdiction of the Baltimore City Accountability Board and must comply with state requirements around the investigation of complaints and discipline of officers.
- Body-Worn Cameras. JHPD officers must wear and use body-worn cameras.
- Public Disclosure: The JHPD is required to provide public access to certain law enforcement records, including department records related to an arrest for a criminal offense.
- Independent Evaluation and Review: There must be an independent evaluation and review of the JHPD within 10 years, after which time the Maryland General Assembly must act to extend or reauthorize the JHPD, or else it will terminate. The results of the evaluation and review will be publicly available.
- Annual Reporting: As a state-authorized police department, the JHPD is required to comply with all applicable state reporting requirements, including reporting on use of force incidents, officer-involved deaths, and traffic stops. The JHPD also is subject to reporting requirements beyond those currently required of other state-authorized law enforcement agencies regarding recruitment efforts, department size, department funding, arrests, complaints, use of surveillance technologies, officer-involved shootings, officer discipline, and demographic data on the JHPD security workforce. All data must be publicly reported and disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, age, and, when applicable, officer rank.
- Civilian Review Board. The JHPD is subject to the jurisdiction of the Civilian Review Board of Baltimore City (CRB). The CRB—composed of residents from across the city—reviews city police agencies’ handling of serious police misconduct complaints and makes recommendations for improvement. Only two other city universities are currently under the CRB’s purview.
- Exemption from State Qualified Immunity: JHPD officers will not be protected by qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a long-standing legal doctrine that effectively shields law enforcement officials from being sued for unconstitutional misconduct. The JHPD is among the first sworn police departments in the country to ban qualified immunity protections.
What will a university-based police department look like?
The Johns Hopkins Police Department will be a new model for university policing, built—from the ground up—by a team of public safety experts, including Vice President for Public Safety Branville Bard.
Johns Hopkins plans to start small and recruit enough officers to gradually reach a capacity of no more than 100 employees across our Homewood, East Baltimore, and Peabody campuses. These employees will include supervisors, command staff, detectives, community relations officers, and patrol officers, and, by law, within five years, 25% of these employees must be Baltimore City residents. At full capacity, we anticipate that 10-12 JHPD officers will be on duty across our three campuses at any given time, effectively replacing our current contingent of off-duty BPD officers with our own fully sworn university police officers.
Community input and feedback will be essential throughout the development of the JHPD and on an ongoing basis once the department is established.
The department will be subject to greater public and community oversight than any other Maryland law enforcement body: three layers of community oversight, including a police advisory and accountability board made up of multiple stakeholder groups; an administrative hearing board for police misconduct that includes the maximum number of civilian seats allowed by law; and submission to Baltimore City’s Civilian Review Board for ongoing oversight of complaints against university police.
Will JHPD officers be armed?
JHPD officers will be trained and certified to carry firearms in the course of their duties, just like the other university police departments in Baltimore City. However, the JHPD is prohibited from purchasing military-grade equipment.
How will the university police department work with the Baltimore Police Department?
JHPD will operate under a Memorandum of Understanding with BPD and will continue to rely on and work closely with BPD as a critical part of our security efforts.
A Johns Hopkins Police Department will complement the efforts of the BPD in and around our university and medical campuses in Baltimore, in line with the partnership that currently exists between BPD and other university police departments that operate in the city.
Consistent with all public universities in Baltimore City and across Maryland, BPD will retain primary responsibility for investigations and arrests related to more serious Part I offenses specified under the Uniform Crime Reporting Program except theft, burglary and motor vehicle taking. The BPD will also maintain evidence collected from crime scenes at the Evidence Control Unit of BPD and impound any stolen vehicles.
The mayor and police commissioner have a multiyear plan to change the trajectory of crime in Baltimore and have made it clear that they need major institutions in the city, including Johns Hopkins, to be a part of that effort, particularly because the BPD is operating in such a demanding environment. We share a responsibility with elected officials, other city employers and institutions, and the citizenry at large to tackle local crime and its root causes. A university-focused police department serving the needs of our campuses and the surrounding communities will provide important support to the city’s crime-reduction strategies.
What are the JHPD jurisdictional boundaries?
State law authorizes the JHPD to have primary law enforcement responsibility for its campus area, defined as property that is:
- Owned, leased, operated by, or operated under the control of the university;
- Located within specific boundaries (listed in the law) on the Homewood, East Baltimore, and Peabody campuses; and
- Used for educational or institutional purposes.
Campus area includes public property immediately adjacent to the campus, including: (i) a sidewalk, a street, or any other thoroughfare; and (ii) a parking facility. This can be seen on the maps of JHPD’s jurisdictional boundaries on each of our three campuses.
We are currently planning to implement the JHPD only within our campus boundaries, as defined by state law and outlined above. Any expansion beyond our on-campus boundaries would require majority community agreement as certified by the city council.
Importantly, even when fully implemented, the JHPD will be narrow in scope—no more than 100 personnel—and only one small element of our overall public safety approach. Even as we plan to build the JHPD, we will continue to prioritize root cause prevention, innovative responses to behavioral health crises, and investments in community safety partnerships.
Is there research that supports the decision to establish a university police department?
Yes. Johns Hopkins committed to a vigorous research program that included a review of available academic literature about public safety and university policing, peer benchmarking, and identification of best practices. We reviewed scores of scholarly articles on a wide range of relevant topics, from the root causes of violent crime to the impact of policing approaches on different groups of people.
To better understand prevailing approaches to public safety in academic settings, we surveyed the security models at over 50 peer universities, with a particular focus on urban peers. This survey included all 21 of Johns Hopkins’ peers in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas, both public and private. We also examined the practices of select municipal and county police departments—both in Maryland and nationally—that have strong reputations for fair and impartial policing and/or recent, innovative approaches to police reform.
Our examination of peers and the relevant academic literature yielded a number of valuable insights into how public safety organizations are structured, what values should guide our public safety approaches, and which practices work best at reducing violent crime and advancing procedural justice. These findings are described in detail in the Interim Study Report, particularly on pages 19–26.
Please submit any additional questions on our feedback page. We will update the FAQs on an ongoing basis.