October 15, 2018
Dear Johns Hopkins Students, Faculty, Staff, and Neighbors:
In March of this year—following a sustained increase in armed robberies and other criminal activity on and around our Baltimore campuses—Johns Hopkins sought the enactment of state legislation on an urgent basis that would have allowed us to add a sworn police unit to our current security operation, with powers and responsibilities similar to those of other universities in Baltimore and across the country.
This legislation was met with intense interest on and off campus, and we and the legislature decided that the proposal needed a more comprehensive and deliberative discussion with members of our community and surrounding neighborhoods.
While there was broad agreement that the level of crime around our campuses and across our city is untenable, there was less consensus on how this threat should be addressed. Many of those we heard from appreciated Hopkins’ willingness to take on added responsibility and cost in order to enhance the protection of our campuses and nearby communities, particularly given the challenges facing the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). Others were concerned that Hopkins might become too closely affiliated with the BPD and expressed a general distrust of police, particularly with regard to bias or profiling. Some shared negative experiences with our current security personnel that needed to be addressed. And some were concerned this effort might cause us to pull back on our university’s commitment to support efforts to address the root causes of violence in our city.
All of these perspectives are legitimate and deserving of further clarification, debate, and discussion. In fact, the common theme across all of the feedback we received was the desire to learn more about the options and best practices for improving safety and to have greater input in the university’s decision-making.
In that spirit, we recently restarted informal conversations with students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and city leaders. We also want to share with you a number of upcoming opportunities for dialogue and engagement, including:
- A discussion series on policing with local and national experts;
- Open forums for dialogue with university leaders;
- Web posting of events and information; and
- An online comment box to send input or request meetings.
Crime has not abated since last year, and we have not wavered in our belief that Hopkins must take steps to augment our capacity to protect our campuses and surrounding areas. Establishing a model university police unit that sets the bar for constitutional and accountable policing remains one of the most promising options we see. But there are a number of approaches that peer universities have taken, and we are actively looking for and open to alternative models and solutions.
Our objective in doing so is this: To explore options for augmenting our current security operation so that we can respond as effectively as possible, 24-7, to the crime we face locally, and the threat of active shooter incidents we see nationally—and to ensure that every step we take is driven by the values of this institution and the community at large, and shaped by the input of the Hopkins community and our neighbors.
Here’s how you can participate in this important dialogue:
- Discussion Series. Our first event will be a public panel discussion on the current landscape in university policing on October 29 at the Schafler Auditorium on the Homewood campus. This will be followed by events to discuss topics such as constitutional and community policing, law enforcement accountability, public safety training and technology, and understanding and addressing the root causes of crime.
- Open Forums. Public events with university leaders will include forums in Charles Village on November 13 at the 29th Street Community Center and in East Baltimore on November 26 at HEBCAC (Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition).
- Small Group Meetings. University leaders and security personnel have scheduled small group meetings through the fall with a broad range of student, faculty, and community organizations, and would welcome the opportunity to meet with others upon request.
- Information and Materials. A dedicated website will be updated regularly to include applicable research and crime data, draft proposals, and documentation of the feedback and recommendations we receive in meetings and forums.
It is our expectation that these multiple avenues for discussion and input will allow us to fully examine relevant research, consider the pros and cons of security models adopted by other universities, and gain a deeper understanding of the concerns that have been raised and how best to address them. We are mindful of the pressing nature of the security issues we currently face, and therefore are committed to preparing and circulating by early 2019 a full report on our consultations and to proposing a path forward.
We look forward to hearing from you and hope to see you at one of the upcoming meetings.
Ronald J. Daniels
Paul B. Rothman
Dean of the Medical Faculty
CEO, Johns Hopkins Medicine