A Johns Hopkins University faculty committee is calling on Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby to hold a public hearing as some people’s concerns about the university’s plans to create an armed police force continue to grow.

The committee, which is headed by faculty but open to others, held a virtual meeting Monday night to discuss reservations about how the private university is going about the creation of its police force, and about its jurisdictional boundaries. More than four dozen people joined, including City Councilwoman Odette Ramos.

“One of the things we really want to drive home is the need for more oversight and public investigation,” said committee President Lester Spence, who is also a professor of political science and Africana studies.

The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill in 2019 allowing Johns Hopkins University to form its own police department, and implementation had been paused following widespread protests in 2020 after police in Minneapolis murdered George Floyd. Now, in 2024, the department is set to begin deploying officers this summer. Faculty, student groups and community activists are still looking for ways to prevent the department from starting, citing overall opposition.

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University officials have said previously they plan to hire about 100 officers.

Joan Floyd, a Johns Hopkins graduate who lives near the Homewood campus, said the university has refused to answer questions about where its police will have primary jurisdiction when it comes to public spaces. According to the law the general assembly passed, Johns Hopkins police have jurisdiction over any property that is owned, leased or under the control of Johns Hopkins University and the immediately adjacent public spaces, such as sidewalks, streets or parking areas.

The university published maps showing its jurisdiction in 2022, but Floyd and others say they aren’t clear enough and do not correspond with the boundaries set forth by the legislature. The memorandum of understanding and the law to create the department defines the western border of its jurisdiction at the Peabody campus as Cathedral Street. Floyd presented Johns Hopkins’ jurisdiction map of its Peabody campus in Mount Vernon, which does not include anything bordering Cathedral Street.

“No one in an official capacity has tried to actually map the jurisdiction in accordance with those words, in accordance with that criteria,” Floyd said in an interview afterward. “That’s the main point right now.”

The Johns Hopkins Police Department could, in the future, patrol the neighborhoods around the university’s three campuses if the Baltimore City Council “approves a resolution affirming” the university has the support to do so from a majority of the “members of the relevant campus–adjacent communities,” according to the memorandum of understanding between the university and the Baltimore Police Department.

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For years, opponents to the creation of the university police department have cited concerns that more police officers in the neighborhoods around the three campuses could lead to lethal run-ins.

“The worst case scenario that I have in my head is a member of the Hopkins police force using violence to adjudicate an issue with somebody either in this community or in the surrounding ones,” Spence said.

On Monday, Ramos said she had always been opposed to Johns Hopkins creating its own police department.

“I do fear that if they’re in our community that there will be mistakes made as to who they’re targeting,” Ramos said. She added she had concerns about the departmental policies the university has published, which are largely influenced by BPD’s and other departments nationwide.

“They’re abysmal,” she said. “If the policies are going to be this bad, I don’t trust they’re going to be doing this right.”

Lee O. Sanderlin is an Enterprise Reporter for The Baltimore Banner. Before joining The Banner, he worked at The Baltimore Sun as a reporter covering a wide array of topics, including stories about abusive politicians, sexual abuse, gun violence and legislative issues.

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