Accountability Board Q&A

In a recent letter to the Johns Hopkins University Police Accountability Board, the new vice president for public safety, Dr. Branville Bard, called its creation “a milestone legislative achievement and a bellwether in modeling change in the culture of law enforcement,” and he envisions the Board as playing a critical advisory role going forward. Thus, while the temporary halt in the JHPD remains in place, Dr. Bard recently reconvened the Board as part of his effort to listen and learn from members of the community – on and off campus – to seek their feedback and guidance on public safety issues and initiatives, including a range of non-policing initiatives. The meeting, which was open to the public, was held on December 13, 2021. The meeting minutes as well as information on upcoming meetings can be found here.

Applications for vacant seats on the Accountability Board were accepted between October 18, 2021 a November 28, 2021. On December 21, 2021, five nominees were announced to fill the vacant seats. These five Johns Hopkins University affiliates will now be sent to the Maryland State Senate for confirmation during the 2022 legislative session of the General Assembly, which began Jan. 12, 2022.

What is the Johns Hopkins University Police Accountability Board?

The Johns Hopkins University Police Accountability Board, unique both in Maryland and throughout the country, empowers community members from JHU and the surrounding neighborhoods to help directly shape the development and operation of the future Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD).

The Accountability Board originated as one of several University recommendations in the Interim Study on Approaches to Improving Public Safety on and around Johns Hopkins University Campuses and reflects both community input and research into best practices among police departments nationally.

The Community Safety and Strengthening Act, which passed the Maryland General Assembly during the 2019 legislative session, positions the Accountability Board as a crucial element in ensuring the success, transparency, and accountability of the JHPD.  Under the law, Accountability Board members are responsible for sharing community concerns directly with department leadership, reviewing police department metrics, and assessing current and prospective department policies, procedures and training in order to provide recommendations for improvement.[1] 

What is the status of the Accountability Board?  

While the temporary halt in the JHPD remains in place, the new president for public safety, Dr. Branville Bard, recently reconvened the Board as part of his effort to listen and learn from members of the community – on and off campus – to seek their feedback and guidance on public safety issues and initiatives, including a range of non-policing initiatives. The meeting, which was open to the public, was held on December 13, 2021. The meeting minutes as well as information on upcoming meetings can be found here.

Applications for vacant seats on the Accountability Board were accepted between October 18, 2021 a November 28, 2021. On December 21, 2021, five nominees were announced to fill the vacant seats. These five Johns Hopkins University affiliates will now be sent to the Maryland State Senate for confirmation during the 2022 legislative session of the General Assembly, which began Jan. 12, 2022.

Why is Johns Hopkins reconvening the Accountability Board during the JHPD two year pause?  

Johns Hopkins remains deeply committed to honoring the pause of the JHPD for two years. The decision to reconvene the Accountability Board stems directly from the new vice president for public safety’s desire to listen and learn from members of the community – on and off campus – to seek their feedback and guidance on public safety issues and initiatives, including a range of non-policing initiatives. Vice President of public safety, Branville Bard, says he will look to the accountability board as a pathbreaking vehicle for those with different perspectives to advise him on the institution’s vision for public safety—even as Hopkins respects the two-year pause in the development of the JHPD. 

What will be the composition of the Accountability Board?

The Accountability Board will reflect the University‘s community of diverse people, ideas, and experiences.  This includes diversity not only in affiliation with the University’s schools, campuses, and communities, but also in areas such as race, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, and ability.

The Accountability Board will be composed of:

  • 5 community members unaffiliated with the University, including at least 1 community representative from each of the three areas in Baltimore where the JHPD may patrol; [I]
  • 10 Johns Hopkins University students, faculty, and staff, including at least one member of the JHU Black Faculty and Staff Association.

All members of the Accountability Board will be Baltimore City residents.  Student members must be enrolled in a JHU school at one of the University’s relevant Baltimore campus areas for the duration of their Board term.

How will Accountability Board members be appointed?

The state law authorizing the JHPD specifies that Baltimore City‘s mayor and City Council president each appoint one community member to the Accountability Board; JHU leadership nominates the remaining 13 members, including three community members in consultation with the Baltimore City Council. All JHU nominees are subject to confirmation by the Maryland State Senate.[ii]

For its appointments, JHU has established an application process and a nominating committee composed of students, faculty, staff, and Baltimore City community members. To be considered for the 13 JHU-appointed Accountability Board seats, individuals were given the opportunity to submit applications online.

We also welcome nominations of others and will reach out to those nominated to provide application materials.

To be eligible to serve on the Accountability Board, applicants must demonstrate:

  • For non-student members, a willingness to serve for two years, and for student members, a willingness to serve for one year; and
  • Respect for diversity and a commitment to working across differences to ensure the ultimate success and effectiveness of the JHPD.
  • Additional information about both the Accountability Board and the application process can be found here. For the 2021 cycle, the deadline to apply was November 28, 2021.

What is the review and selection process for Accountability Board applicants?

On December 1, 2021, a nominating committee of eight Baltimore City community members, students, faculty, and staff (two each) reviewed applications and developed a list of recommended nominees. That list was delivered to University leadership, who nominated five Johns Hopkins University affiliates to fill the vacant seats. These names were then send to the Maryland State Senate for confirmation during the 2022 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly. Applicants will be notified of their selection status prior to the 2022 legislative session, which began on January 12, 2022.

Names of the nominating committee members and more information about the Accountability Board can be found on the Public Safety Initiatives website, along with a comment box to send your ideas and feedback.

How were nominating committee members selected?

Because the Accountability Board contains students, faculty, staff, and Baltimore City community members, the University established a nominating committee that has two representatives from each constituency. The two student members serve on the Student Advisory Committee for Security, and the faculty, staff and community members have all been active and engaged around issues of public safety. All have demonstrated their commitment to working with the University to improve the neighborhoods where they live and work around our Baltimore campuses and are well-respected advocates and leaders in their communities.

Names of the nominating committee members and more information about the Accountability Board can be found on the Public Safety Initiatives website, along with a comment box to send your ideas and feedback.

Why is University leadership making the Accountability Board appointments?

The Community Safety and Strengthening Act places responsibility for these appointments on JHU, subject to confirmation by the Maryland State Senate.  We have taken an additional step of convening a separate nominating committee composed of students, faculty, staff, and community members to review applications and select the pool of individuals from which University leadership will make its appointment recommendations.

Why did Johns Hopkins launch the University Police Accountability Board before establishing the University police department?

The Accountability Board is a crucial element in ensuring the success, transparency, and accountability of the JHPD.  Under the law, Accountability Board members are charged with sharing community concerns directly with department leadership, reviewing police department metrics, and assessing current and prospective department policies, procedures and training in order to provide recommendations for improvement.

By launching the effort to form an Accountability Board now, well before our first University police officers are recruited and trained, we are ensuring the Board can provide guidance throughout each stage of this multi-year implementation process.  Early Board involvement will help embed our values and commitments around community-oriented public safety practices from the department’s inception.

How can neighbors, community groups and other stakeholders engage with the Accountability Board?

The University Police Accountability Board is a public channel for accountability and transparency.  It is designed to ensure that community voices and perspectives inform the development and operation of the JHPD from its inception, including through:

  • Community, student, faculty, and staff representation on the Accountability Board, which will meet at least quarterly to review JHPD metrics around crime and assess – and provide recommendations to University leadership around – current and prospective department policies, procedures, and training.
  • Public posting of all Accountability Board meeting minutes online for public review and comment.
  • Annual public meetings to obtain stakeholder feedback.

Do you plan to move forward with the JHPD?  

We have never wavered from our commitment to establishing a small, publicly accountable university police department, but we made the commitment in June of last year to pause implementation of the JHPD in light of the shocking acts of police violence that called our nation to action and in anticipation of further policy reforms and direction from the Maryland General Assembly.  

We believed at the time, and we continue to believe today, that moving forward with our own police department while elected leaders in Baltimore and in the state legislature were embarking on a necessary and ambitious agenda of progressive police reform would have been both premature and insensitive.   

After the pause, we plan to move forward with establishing a small, transparent and accountable university police department as one component of our broader public safety strategy which focuses on non-policing initiatives, such as:   

  • Innovation Fund – a four-year, $6M commitment to improving safety across Baltimore 
  • Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team – a progressive program that pairs clinicians with campus safety officers to provide support to people experiencing a behavioral health crisis on or near campus 
  • Expanded officer trainings for all Hopkins safety personnel. These trainings are designed to increase empathy and understanding, crisis intervention capabilities, de-escalation strategies and to better support members of the LGBTQ community.  

The JHPD is a small but integral part of that public safety strategy. 

Does the hire of a new VP, Public Safety (Branville Bard) mean the JHPD is back on? 

Dr. Bard’s hiring doesn’t change our timetable or plan for establishing a university police department at Johns Hopkins. He was selected for this position based on his national leadership in promoting progressive, community-centered, accountable policing. We made the decision last year to pause implementation of the JHPD in light of the shocking acts of police violence that called our nation to action and in anticipation of further policy reforms and direction from the Maryland General Assembly. At the time, we believed and continue to believe today, that moving forward with our own police department while elected leaders in Baltimore and in the state legislature were embarking on a necessary and ambitious agenda of progressive police reform would have been both premature and insensitive. But we have never wavered from our commitment to establishing a university police department. That said, Dr. Bard agrees that we must hold to our commitment to pause the JHPD implementation process for two years. During this time, he will work to continue to strengthen our non-police approaches to public safety. With real progress on those fronts, his most immediate priority is to reengage with key stakeholders on and off campus in the months ahead — first to listen and learn, and then to build a team that can work on a plan, with lots of ongoing community input. 

[i] Md. Code Ann., Education § 24-1205(c)(2).

[ii] Md. Code Ann., Education § 24-1205(c)(3)-(4).

[iii] Available at: https://publicsafety.jhu.edu/assets/uploads/sites/9/2020/05/Interim-study-report-FINAL.pdf.