Why I oppose the JHU private police force

By: Richard Elliott

Johns Hopkins University isn’t just a university. The Homewood campus, the medical campus, their continuous territorial expansion, and the 40,000+ strong workforce in Baltimore render Hopkins as an institution with unparalleled power within Maryland, and particularly within Baltimore City. The history of Hopkins relations with Baltimore City residents is particularly blood-soaked, from the ownership of enslaved persons by the founder to scientific racism being inflicted on neighboring populations to gentrification at the expense of working class families.

Last session, JHU administration introduced a bill to allow private policing. This bill was withdrawn as it was abundantly clear that the university did not do community outreach to adequately inform their opinion. Based on how the process has played out this session, it is fair to assume they still have not done their homework. Members of our communities have spoken out ardently not just against this bill, but also against the process that has forced this bill through the legislature without respect for the communities involved.

For the following reasons, I oppose HB1094/SB0793, the so-called Community Safety & Strengthening Act, and request that our Delegates and Senators vote against this legislation.

1. The Private Police Force will worsen the divide within the City When one first moves to Baltimore, they’re taught the City’s geography in stark racial terms. The White L and the Black Butterfly represent the development of a hypersegregated American city, which is particularly relevant in the realm of politics. The White L, which includes Johns Hopkins University, the Inner Harbor, and Port Covington, gets the overwhelming majority of both private and public investment. The Black Butterfly is chronically underfunded and overpoliced.

Hopkins has already worsened this divide through a consistent pattern of exploitation, “urban renewal”, and expansion to the detriment of neighboring, majority-black communities. While JHU does not pay taxes, they benefit tremendously from government funding for research, which they have used on the black bodies around the campus to steal genetic material and test lead paint. Even against their own employees, Hopkins has waged an anti-union campaign against nurses and underpays subcontractors. Hopkins has not acted as a good faith actor to fellow Baltimoreans and the aggressive push for an armed private police force with no accountability worsens that relationship.

2. The communities most impacted do not support this bill! The following communities have spoken out against this bill:

● Abell Community Association (40 votes against, 3 for)
● Harwood Community Association (22 votes against, 5 for)
● Remington Community Association
● Old Goucher Community Association
● 104+ Johns Hopkins University professors, including all Black professors
● 75% of polled undergraduates in 2018 Student Government referendum
● ⅔ of respondents to Delegate Robbyn Lewis’ survey
● JHU African Student Association
● 2,600 on campus signatories
● Unite Here! Local 7 Food Service Workers Union

Who supports an armed private police force? Billion dollar donor & Hopkins alum Michael Bloomberg, Johns Hopkins Hospital administration, the JHU LLC Board of Trustees, Congressman Elijah Cummings, and JHU President Ron Daniels, who said in a Washington Post op-ed that:

“We oppose guns on campus not in the hackneyed stereotype of liberals scolding from the ivory tower but as a result of a searching examination of relevant research, as well as a common-sense assessment of reality. What the evidence to date shows — and what we hope state legislators across the nation who are pondering such
measures will consider — is that campus-carry laws will invite tragedies on college campuses, not end them.”

Simply because the Johns Hopkins conglomerate wants access to private policing does not mean that the other residents of Baltimore City & Maryland should be silenced in their dissent.

3. Past research does not support the need for private policing Hopkins cites two studies done around universities getting police forces to make their argument. One was for the University of Chicago, the other was the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The study on the University of Chicago was the most in depth as it looked at crime before, during and after the transition. The study found that there was “no statistically significant impact of additional private police on crime in the short to medium run.” While they then found that crime began to trend down in the treated areas 80 months after jurisdiction expansion, they also stated that “these shifts are not statistically significant.” The same study also states, “it is impossible to know with certainty whether the additional police presence reduced crime in an absolute sense or merely displaced it to other areas. Displacement is of particular concern for public police because displacement results in a reallocation of workload across different geographic units with no net benefit for the department as a whole.”

Finally when looking at the University of Chicago’s recent annual security report in which they have to report all crime statistics that occur on college controlled property they have this interesting graph:

It shows that in the previous 4 years while overall crime has gone down, there have been increases to the amount of criminal sexual assaults, robberies, aggravated assaults, and violent crimes in the areas that the UC police now have jurisdiction over while property crimes have gone down. Just like the arrangement Johns Hopkins wants, where the public police investigates major crimes, and their private police only deals with property crimes, we see that property crimes have decreased but major violent crimes continue to increase.

This leads to an important question: who is the private police force supposed to protect?

4. This legislation builds precedent for future private police forces One important point that has been mostly left out of the discussion of this legislation is that other entities will be able to use this precedent to establish their own private police forces. Community associations like Harbor East & Canton, corporate parks like Port Covington, and more will have enhanced legislative ability to push for their own micro-police states with increasingly shrinking liability, accountability, or clear intentions. And this is occuring in a city with continuously increasing police budgets, at the direct cost of less funding for education, infrastructure, and public health. We do not need Baltimore, which is already 3rd in police officers per 10,000 residents, to become more of a police state.
This would not be limited to Baltimore City. A delegate has mentioned that this could allow Marriott Hotel to establish a policed corporate park in Montgomery County.

How far will we allow corporations and elite institutions to push their power in the legislature, and to what end?
In summation, I oppose this legislation as it appears to be a solution in search of a problem, being promoted by elites over the objections of other Baltimore residents, and it will only worsen the divide in our city with unaccountable policing for the benefit of a wealthy institution. I request that this bill gets killed on the floor and that legislators think of the future consequences as private policing expands throughout our state.

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