JHU pro­test­ers de­mand end to plan for pri­vate po­lice force

Stu­dents, fac­ulty, alumni, com­mu­nity mem­bers among Mon­day marchers

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Colin Camp­bell

A group of about 100 pro­test­ers marched Mon­day across the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity Home­wood cam­pus in North Bal­ti­more to paper the front door and win­dows of univer­sity Pres­i­dent Ron Daniels’ house with copies of a fac­ulty pe­ti­tion call­ing for an end to a stalled plan for a pri­vate univer­sity po­lice force.

The group of stu­dents, fac­ulty, alumni and com­mu­nity mem­bers car­ried ban­ners and chanted “No jus­tice! No peace! No pri­vate po­lice!” and “Hey-hey! Ho-ho! Ron Daniels has got to go!” through mega­phones as they crossed cam­pus and filled the univer­sity pres­i­dent’s front yard.

Then they tried, un­suc­cess­fully, to draw him out­side for a con­ver­sa­tion by read­ing aloud from the pe­ti­tion, knock­ing on the front door and chant­ing: “Ron Daniels! Don’t hide! Come out­side!”

The demon­stra­tion was the lat­est ac­tion taken to protest Hop­kins’ plan to form a pri­vate po­lice force to pa­trol its Bal­ti­more cam­puses. School of­fi­cials re­cently de­cided to pause the hotly con­tested move for two years amid the on­go­ing na­tional reck­on­ing over po­lice vi­o­lence against mi­nori­ties fol­low­ing the killing of Ge­orge Floyd and other Black peo­ple by law en­force­ment.

Sev­eral of the demon­stra­tors re­sponded to that plan with signs bear­ing mes­sages such as “IN 2 YEARS, COPS WILL STILL BE KILLERS” and “NO JHU PO­LICE — NOT NOW, NOT IN 2 YEARS, NOT EVER!” Mon­day’s march fol­lowed more than a year of protests against the planned po­lice force, most no­tably a month-long sit-in at the univer­sity’s ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing last spring.

Mi­hir Chaudhary, who re­cently grad­u­ated with a mas­ter’s de­gree from Hop­kins’ Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health, said he saw the de­lay as an in­au­then­tic “stall tac­tic.”

Many of the stu­dent ac­tivists who have led demon­stra­tions against the po­lice force will grad­u­ate in that time, said Chaudhary, 30, who lives in Mount Ver­non.

“It’s clearly a way for the univer­sity to ride the na­tional dis­con­tent and out­rage over po­lice killings and po­lice vi­o­lence against com­mu­ni­ties of color,” he said. “We see this as clearly a strate­gic move on the part of the univer­sity to still have its po­lice force and avoid some of the pub­li­cre­la­tions dis­as­ter that comes along with that an­nounce­ment.”

Hop­kins halted the process of form­ing its po­lice force “so we can en­gage in and be in­formed by the broader ef­forts to re­form polic­ing,” univer­sity spokes­woman Karen Lan­caster said in an emailed state­ment.

“Our goal is to re­duce as much as pos­si­ble our reliance on sworn polic­ing as a pub­lic safety strat­egy,” she wrote.

The univer­sity also has con­trib­uted $2 million to bring the na­tion­ally rec­og­nized Roca pro­gram to Bal­ti­more to in­ter­vene on be­half of high-risk youths and pro­vided fac­ulty guid­ance for the work of Safe Streets Bal­ti­more, a peer-to-peer vi­o­lence in­ter­rup­tion pro­gram, Lan­caster noted.

“We in­tend to con­tinue and ex­pand on those ef­forts in the years ahead,” she said.

Al­low­ing an armed, pri­vate po­lice force to pa­trol the Hop­kins cam­pus “would re­pro­duce and crys­tal­lize the di­vide be­tween Bal­ti­more and Hop­kins,” said Lester Spence, a Hop­kins pro­fes­sor of political sci­ence and Africana stud­ies.

“It would dou­ble down on polic­ing as a solution to a range of com­mu­nity prob­lems,” Spence said. “Even if it was the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble — it’s not — to cre­ate a per­fectly trained po­lice force, it wouldn’t be pos­si­ble to deal with what I call the ‘Karen’ problem.”

Of­fer­ing an ex­am­ple, Spence re­called an email he re­ceived in 2011 about a white stu­dent who called se­cu­rity on a Black stu­dent in the Hop­kins library. Se­cu­rity of­fi­cers re­sponded, ha­rassed the Black stu­dent, then left, he said.

“That se­cu­rity force did what they were tasked to do,” Spence said. “So, even if we have a po­lice force that was prop­erly trained, there’s that is­sue that can’t re­ally be rec­on­ciled.”

Kristin Brig, a mem­ber of Teach­ers and Re­searchers United, a move­ment of grad­u­ate stu­dent work­ers union­iz­ing un­der SEIU Lo­cal 500, said a pri­vate po­lice force will “threaten, more than help, our com­mu­nity.”

“This po­lice force will cost mil­lions of dol­lars,” Brig said. “That the ad­min­is­tra­tion is will­ing to put those dol­lars to­wards a highly prob­lem­atic plan in­stead of to­wards the work­ers and the com­mu­nity fun­da­men­tal to univer­sity life is abom­inable.”

Natalie Segers, a nurse at an in­pa­tient unit at Johns Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal and a mem­ber of Na­tional Nurses United, noted that the po­lice force would be re­spon­si­ble for pa­trolling the East Bal­ti­more hos­pi­tal com­plex, too.

When hos­pi­tal pa­tients be­come un­ruly or lash out, of­ten as a re­sult of dis­ori­en­ta­tion or other men­tal health is­sues, the nurses some­times have to call se­cu­rity to help re­strain them, Segers said.

“These oc­cur­rences need to be man­aged with calm­ing, non­vi­o­lent holds, with de-es­ca­la­tion tech­niques, un­til staff can med­i­cally man­age the neu­ro­log­i­cal, bi­o­log­i­cal trauma re­sponse that oc­curs here, un­til we can help the pa­tient re­turn to their base­line,” Segers said. “Adding cops to the sys­tem is only go­ing to fur­ther trau­ma­tize our pa­tients. … Med­i­cal trauma is real, and we don’t need to be adding po­lice trauma to that ex­pe­ri­ence.”END THIRD OPT TRIM

Adding a pri­vate po­lice force won’t make Hop­kins safer for mi­nor­ity stu­dents or the ma­jor­ity of Bal­ti­more­ans who are Black, said Na­ri­man El Said, 31, a mem­ber of the Greater Bal­ti­more chap­ter of the Demo­cratic So­cial­ists of Amer­ica, who par­tic­i­pated in the march. “The Hop­kins pro­posal for a pri­vate po­lice force ab­so­lutely has noth­ing to do with pub­lic safety,” she said.

James Williams, 23, a vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor with the Tub­man House in Sand­town Winch­ester who joined the march, said he has been in­spired by the ef­forts of the Hop­kins protest or­ga­niz­ers, es­pe­cially the month­long Gar­land Hall sit-in. Not­ing the par­tial de­mo­li­tion of the Gil­mor Homes hous­ing project, Williams said he won­dered why of­fi­cials in Bal­ti­more have been un­able to come up with ways to im­prove Black peo­ples’ lives, in­stead of polic­ing and up­root­ing them.

“This is a mo­ment, across this country, where ev­ery­thing and any­thing is pos­si­ble,” he said.

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