Johns Hopkins strongly supports legislation pending in Maryland that would allow Johns Hopkins University to establish a university police department, following substantial community engagement, by reaching a memorandum of understanding with the Baltimore mayor or police commissioner and meeting the requirements of the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission.

At this early stage in the process, information sessions are being held to seek feedback and input from across the university, from neighborhood and community groups, and from other stakeholders. Based on this important and considered feedback, we are working with state lawmakers and community organizations to modify and strengthen the original bill through a set of amendments that would limit the initial jurisdiction of the university police force to our campuses at Homewood, Peabody and East Baltimore and would set forth with specificity the parameters of a model university police department. The revised legislation ensures a fully open and consultative process for developing the MOU with public and university input, reflects our commitment to policing transparency and oversight, and enumerates policies, practices, and training to ensure constitutional, community-oriented policing.  

Thank you for your interest in this important topic. The revised legislation is here for your review and the FAQ below has been expanded to address additional questions we have received. As this process moves forward, we will continue to update this information. We hope you will attend upcoming meetings or send your thoughts and feedback through the comments box.

Proposed Jurisdictions and Crime Data

Recent Studies

University leaders have cited the two studies below at recent forums.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Johns Hopkins considering establishing a university police department?

The safety of our campus communities – including students, faculty, staff, patients, guests, and neighbors – remains a top priority for Johns Hopkins. We see this as a critical opportunity to build a model university police department that responds to the specific needs of our community, reflects contemporary best practices in community policing, and upholds in every way the core values of our institution – including a deep respect for freedom of expression, a meaningful connection to our neighbors, an unwavering commitment to equity and inclusion, and a promise of transparency and accountability. 

In recent years, the university has significantly increased its investment in traditional security measures, including increases in personnel, lighting, cameras, and collaboration with community groups to reduce the risk of crime. At the same time, however, we have experienced a notable uptick in the severity and frequency of crime around our campuses, particularly since 2015. Our Homewood campus crime trends show an increase of 75 percent over two years, from 2015 to 2017, as the number of incidents grew from 41 to 72.  Similarly, our East Baltimore campus crime trends show an increase of 25 percent in just one year, as crime incidents went from 100 in 2015 to 125 in 2016.

Given these trends, and following a particularly challenging fall, we determined that it was prudent to undertake a comprehensive and rigorous assessment of our security approach to ensure that we were doing all that we could to protect the community. This assessment was informed by peer benchmarking, by visits and consultations with universities in our city and across the country, and by the expert advice of outside specialists. We learned that our current security structure is now out of step with urban peers in Baltimore and nationally in that nearly all have university police departments.

Consistently, we were told that university police can act as a stronger and more visible deterrent to local street crime; provide a faster and more effective response to an active shooter threat, in coordination with city, state, and federal law enforcement partners; and, most importantly for us, focus on – and meet – the specific needs of a university community.

Our review of what we learned and heard led us to support the idea of establishing a police department as a critical component of a multilayered security and safety program, and to move expeditiously to address the serious security issues we face.

Why now?  What has changed regarding crime on and around Johns Hopkins campuses?

As described above, despite significant investments in additional layers of security around our campuses, we have experienced a notable uptick in the severity and frequency of crime around our campuses, particularly since 2015. Our Homewood campus crime trends show an increase of 75 percent over two years, from 2015 to 2017, as the number of incidents grew from 41 to 72.  Similarly, our East Baltimore campus crime trends show an increase of 25 percent in just one year, as crime incidents went from 100 in 2015 to 125 in 2016.

Additionally and tragically, active shooter incidents at educational institutions are continuing unabated. An FBI study of active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013 found that they are on the rise, and that nearly a quarter of them have occurred in educational environments. When these incidents occur, it is essential to be able to neutralize the threat quickly and the most effective way to do this, on our large complex campuses, is for our own security personnel to be equipped and trained to do so.

Is there research that supports the decision to establish a university police department?

The benefits of a university police department are the subject of a pair of recent studies authored by leading criminologists. Both studies, one reviewing the University of Pennsylvania Police Department (UPPD) and the other reviewing, University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD), found that the presence of university police had a significant impact on reducing crime rates.

For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, between 2005 and 2010, researchers found that UPPD presence was associated with a 60 percent decrease in violent crime, 55 percent decrease in property crime and a 46 percent decrease in street crime. The study also shows that neighborhoods outside the UPPD police patrol boundary are safer the closer they are to that boundary.

In Chicago, the presence of UCPD had a large long-term impact on crime, particularly violent crime. For example, from 2004-2012, added UCPD presence was associated with 63 percent fewer violent crimes in the patrolling boundary than outside it, and areas patrolled by both city police and UCPD saw even lower crime rates.

What would a university police department look like? Would it be part of the Baltimore Police Department?

A Johns Hopkins University police department would be a separate police department within the larger Johns Hopkins safety and security operation and would coordinate with BPD as we do today. Police officers would be highly trained employees of Johns Hopkins, subject to all of our policies and procedures, and would adhere to our core values. These values include supporting freedom of expression, connecting with and welcoming our neighbors, promoting equity and inclusion, and being transparent and accountable.

University police officers would be a component of our overall security and safety program; the majority of the force will remain unarmed security officers, patrolling the streets and the campuses as they do now. Our intention is to work deliberately in the development of specific university police department policies, protocols, training and hiring practices, and to leverage the insight and best practices learned from our peers.

We also would follow the best practice of community-based policing, which is rooted in collaboration between the police and the community – in this instance, the Johns Hopkins community and surrounding neighbors – to identify and solve community problems.

How would you ensure the accountability and transparency of a Johns Hopkins police department within the community?

We are wholly committed to establishing a police department that is accountable and transparent, in accordance with all constitutional and statutory responsibilities that are imposed on police officers operating in the state of Maryland and with Johns Hopkins’ core values. Our decision to request to operate a university police department was not taken lightly, and we understand the exacting standards and expectations that accompany this request.

Since the legislation was introduced, we have heard significant feedback on the importance of being specific at the outset about how we will achieve a high degree of transparency and accountability. We wholeheartedly support this request and are working with lawmakers to add amendments to this effect in the proposed legislation.

Highlights of the amended legislation include:

  • a fully open and consultative process for developing the MOU, including a public review and comment period, and extensive community input;
  • the filing of an annual report to the general public and to city and state authorities, which will include data and demographic information regarding the size of the department, stops, arrests, use of force, and complaints against officers; and
  • the creation of a police advisory board composed of students, faculty, staff, and community members, with an annual open meeting, to provide oversight on university police policies and procedures; among other changes.

We know that transparency and accountability will be vital to assuring our community that we are meeting their expectations, and these proposed amendments reflect our commitment to a meaningful partnership between the university police department and the community and individuals it serves.

What is the process for a university decision to establish a police department and how long would it take to do so?

The Maryland General Assembly would need to pass a bill to authorize Johns Hopkins University to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the mayor or police commissioner to establish a university police department. This legislation, which has an effective date of October 1, tracks legislation that has conferred police powers on our city peers – University of Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore; Coppin State; and Morgan State.

Since the filing of this bill, we have received comments from hundreds of members of our community through online feedback, one-on-one phone calls, meetings with individual groups, larger forums, and interactions with neighbors, local leaders and associations in the communities around our campuses.  

Should a bill be signed into law and we enter into an MOU process with the city (following consultation with state police officials), we are committed to continuing these conversations with our university community, our neighbors and other stakeholders, and have proposed amendments ensuring transparent processes before and during the development of the MOU.

We anticipate that this process will take several months, as we carefully consider and work through issues such as the specific size, scope, training, jurisdiction and capabilities of a university police department through an MOU with the city. When we finalize this MOU, we would begin the steps of standing up a police department, starting with the recruitment, hiring, and training of officers to work in a university setting, in accordance with the needs, requirements and core values of our campus communities.

How can neighbors, community groups and other stakeholders have input in this process?

We have been reaching out to many neighborhood associations and community leaders – including a number of groups with which we regularly communicate and partner on issues such as public safety – to ensure they are aware of the proposal and listen to their feedback. We also welcome comments from neighbors and community members online through the university’s campus security site (comments that can be anonymous if preferred). We are also hosting and participating in a series of information-sharing sessions across our university and medical campuses in Baltimore. For more information, visit our campus security site.

These forums and conversations have helped to shape several amendments that would formalize aspects of the community-input process, including a requirement to post the draft MOU for a 30-day public comment period and seek community input. We are working with lawmakers to add such amendments to the original bill. If legislation is passed, we intend to continue this important dialogue during the development of the MOU.

Would university police officers be armed?

University police officers would be trained and certified to carry firearms as needed in the course of their duties, but the majority of our overall security force would remain unarmed.

Importantly, the effort to establish a university police department at Johns Hopkins is not only about firearms. We already deploy armed Baltimore police officers and local sheriff’s deputies, working off-duty or overtime shifts, as part of our multi-layered public safety operation. A university police department, however, would bring additional capabilities to our public safety efforts. It would allow us to build a force that is specially trained for and focused on the specific needs of a university community, provide stronger and more visible deterrence to street crime, and respond more quickly and effectively to an active shooter threat, all in coordination with city, state and federal law enforcement partners.

In addition, Johns Hopkins takes the issue of firearms and other weapons on our university and medical campuses very seriously. Possession of a firearm is strictly prohibited on our university and medical premises – a policy that also extends to those who may have a government-issued permit or license to carry a firearm. The only exceptions permitted under this policy are for law enforcement officers and for people acting under the authority of the vice president for security.

Is the university considering this change due to a lack of faith in the BPD?

No. Our collaboration with the BPD has been and remains a close and effective one. The mayor and police commissioner have a multi-year plan to change the trajectory of crime in Baltimore, and have made it clear that they need major institutions in the city, like Johns Hopkins, to be a part of that effort, particularly because the BPD is operating in such a demanding environment. Any future police department at Johns Hopkins would be a stand-alone university police department, overseen by Johns Hopkins. Such a department would not replace or be an extension of the BPD. Rather, university police officers would complement the efforts of the BPD in and around our university and medical campuses in Baltimore – in line with the role that university police officers at peer institutions play in their home cities.

How would you prevent the racial profiling that other universities have been criticized for and how would you address any officer misconduct?

Racial and ethnic profiling in security and law enforcement at Johns Hopkins or elsewhere is wholly unacceptable. We unequivocally believe that safety and security go hand–in-hand with respect for civil rights and civil liberties and would hold our officers accountable to that standard.

We currently train our officers to understand and support the importance of cultural, racial, religious, disability and LGBTQ diversity on our campuses. For a future Johns Hopkins University police department, we would provide significant additional training focused on the core values of our institution: free expression, diversity, equity, inclusion, transparency, and accountability. We would also ensure officers are trained in mental health issues, conflict management, problem solving, community policing, and de-escalation. This is training above and beyond that required at a state-accredited police academy. We are additionally committed to meeting the comprehensive standards required for accreditation through an agency such as the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), and would be required to seek accreditation from CALEA or a similar external body. 

A Johns Hopkins University police department would take significant steps to ensure fair and impartial policing and would act promptly to address concerns and complaints, with a recognition of the importance of transparency on these matters. We have been discussing with lawmakers proposed amendments to the original bill that would, in part, require us to report annual data on complaints against our officers and information about the complaints review and resolution process to the city and state.

Specific processes would be determined through the MOU process, but we would expect to develop protocols similar to those used at peer universities. We have found that many peer universities handle routine matters (such as tardiness or complaints of discourtesy) internally. They refer more significant issues (such as criminal allegations or situations involving the use of firearms) to outside investigatory entities at the city or state level. As an initial step, we are proposing the legislation be amended to enable the inclusion of independent members with no affiliation to the police department on a disciplinary hearing board.

Another element critical to ensuring adherence to our core values is the hiring process. The careful recruitment of police officers, with a focus on diversity and priority on hiring residents of Baltimore, will be critical to our success in building a model university police department.

What kind of training would university police officers receive on diversity, community policing, and related issues?

Our current campus security personnel are trained professionals, and many have received training from accredited law enforcement academies. We currently train our officers to understand and support the importance of cultural, racial, religious, disability and LGBTQ diversity on our campuses. For a future Johns Hopkins police department, we would provide significant additional training focused on the core values of our institution: free expression, diversity, equity, inclusion, transparency, and accountability.  In fact, we intend to bring to bear the relevant and necessary expertise to institute a training program that is truly best-in-class and reflects best practice, including from experts in social justice, diversity and inclusion, ethical and legal issues, and curriculum design and assessment. This program would supplement that required at a state-accredited police academy, and would ensure officers were trained in mental health issues, conflict management, problem solving, community policing, and de-escalation, and fully understood the importance of fair and impartial policing to prevent racial profiling. Thorough, advanced training is a necessary element in the creation of a model university police department that responds to the needs of our community.

Would university police officers ask people in and or around the university and medical campuses about their immigration status or conduct immigration enforcement actions?

Johns Hopkins University does not provide information about the immigration status of members of our community unless required by law. Similarly, our safety and security officers do not request information regarding citizenship or enforce federal immigration laws without a specific court order. This longstanding policy would extend to university police officers.

What would the patrol boundaries for the new police department be? 

In response to community feedback, we are proposing that a university police department would have jurisdiction only over the campuses at Homewood, East Baltimore, and Peabody. This geography would be consistent with the boundaries set forth by the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges and universities to maintain and report public safety data and crime on their campuses. A university police department also would have some overlapping jurisdiction with the BPD, as is common practice for other university police departments in Baltimore and across the country. Our current security operation at other campuses in Baltimore and elsewhere would remain the same.

What would it cost to create a new university police department? Will tuition go up as a result?

Johns Hopkins currently invests significant resources in our security operations, including very substantial increases since 2015. We also regularly rely on surge staffing to meet our security needs — at significant additional expense due to overtime pay and other factors. Our intention would be to leverage these substantial resources and potential savings to cover the costs of establishing, maintaining, and training a university police department.

Will a university police department change how Johns Hopkins handles student conduct discipline, free speech on campus, and related issues?

Establishing a university police department would not change our student conduct policies. Our goal is not to criminalize activity that can be and currently is addressed through other means. For example, policies that protect free expression and the amnesty provision (intended to encourage students to seek necessary medical attention or assistance for themselves or others in need) would remain in effect.

Our main priority is and will always be the safety and wellbeing of our campus communities. Our expectation is that university police officers – like our current security personnel – would be trained and empowered to exercise good judgment, in accordance with our institution’s core values and with our priority of safety and well-being in mind.

Will a university police department be trained in how to handle incidents involving sexual assault?

Yes. Johns Hopkins University is committed to supporting victims of sexual assault. Members of the university police would be required to understand the Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures, and to fully inform any potential victims about all of their options, including those available within the university process. The person who experiences a sexual assault generally decides whether and where to report the incident, including whether to report to the Office of Institutional Equity and/or to law enforcement. This would not change with the establishment or involvement of a university police department. 

All faculty and staff are given specific training around these issues, and that training would similarly be required for members of a university police department. Additionally, members of the university police will be integrated into ongoing trainings for employees who work closely to assist individuals involved in sexual misconduct matters, for example, on topics such as stalking, relationship violence, sexual assault, and the impact of trauma.

The Office of Institutional Equity will continue to work to investigate and resolve complaints promptly, fairly, equitably, impartially and in compliance with the law and our own Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures.

Johns Hopkins University wants to create a safe and supportive environment for each and every member of our community. If you have been a victim of sexual violence, we urge you to reach out for emotional support and medical care. We stand ready to assist individuals with complaints, whether reported to Johns Hopkins University and/or to law enforcement. Our students can call the Sexual Assault Helpline (410-516-7333), a confidential service of the Johns Hopkins University Counseling Center that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with trained professional counselors who can offer support, provide resources or answer questions. There are also additional emotional support and counseling services available to our community through the Counseling Center, the Student Assistance Program, and the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.

Would persons interacting with the Johns Hopkins Police Department be given the same constitutional protections as those interacting with the Baltimore Police Department?

Yes. If delegated full police powers by the General Assembly, JHU police officers would be subject to all federal and state constitutional protections and limitations. This fact, recently confirmed by a Letter of Advice from the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, means individuals who come into contact with JHU police officers would receive the same constitutional protections against deprivation of the rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution, including rights pertaining to search and seizure, arrest, Miranda, and equal protection. Our clear goal will be to provide our police officers with outstanding training that prevents any encounter from resulting in a deprivation of rights. But if that were to happen, citizens would have recourse under the law.