Submitted to the AFRO by Mayor Catherine Pugh
Nearly 70% of U.S. colleges and universities, both public and private, with 2500 or more students – which comes to more than 4000 schools — have sworn, armed police officers to provide law enforcement services on campus. Every public institution in Baltimore has an armed police department, including Morgan State University, all of the University of Maryland’s professional schools, the University of Baltimore and Coppin State University.
A report on college campus crime clearly states that crime on these campuses is on the rise, by anywhere from 68-75%. The idea of a campus police force dates back to the late 1800s, when Yale University began an agreement with the New Haven Police Department to have two of their officers assigned exclusively to the campus as a means of deterring crime and improving student-police relations.
There is not a single person who can say they are satisfied with where our city is right now as it relates to crime. Too many shootings, too many illegal guns on our streets, just too many violent acts and too many people dying unnecessarily in our streets. Creating jobs and apprenticeship programs while addressing homelessness and drug addiction remain a part of improving the quality of life in Baltimore.
Our efforts to drive down crime also include intervention programs like Safe Streets (which we are expanding) and ROCA, among many others, helped us reduce crime in every single category last year. Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing a spike in crime. In response, we are working to add more police to our team, even though last year, despite a significant increase in applications, we lost 36 officers more than we hired. Not acceptable. We were already at a deficit when I took office two years and two months ago, with 545 less officers than budgeted. That will improve. Since putting the applications on line they have tripled. We’ve also certified our cadet program which will help us attract more residents from Baltimore.
With the introduction of Michael Harrison to be our Police Commissioner, BPD is preparing to undergo a complete makeover. Also, with the support of the state, the Department will significantly upgrade our technology platforms, thereby improving transparency, oversight and accountability.
Four days a week, at eight o’clock in the morning, our Violence Reduction Initiative team meets at Police Headquarters to dissect the crime occurring in the streets and, with various city agencies, attack the issues at the heart of crime. Then, once a week, the engaged team walks with me through crime-ridden neighborhoods to observe what’s going on, engage community leaders and offer solutions. Everyone in our city deserves to feel safe — residents, business owners, employees, students and visitors. I remember Mr. Flan Couch, Jr., who headed the police department at Morgan when I was a student. We all felt safe because of his forces’ presence.
Newly nominated Police Commissioner Michael Harrison says that in New Orleans they have seven universities – five private and two public; all of them have private armed police departments. He says the formation of a Hopkins police force would be good for Baltimore if we craft a detailed memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would make a Hopkins police force accountable to the city. I agree. It helps Baltimore. Because just like Morgan, the University of Baltimore, Coppin and the University of Maryland, we don’t have to patrol their campus grounds.
The MOU would require an agreement with the Baltimore Police Department that Hopkins be in compliance with our consent decree. It could also restrict the number of police they can hire. The MOU could require Hopkins officers to be trained by BPD, just like Coppin State University Police, as we are required by the consent decree to change the cultural behavior of the department, provide constitutional training, as well as community engagement and bias free policing. The MOU would also require that all serious crimes be investigated by the Baltimore Police Department. This strategy works in other cities and could work in Baltimore. Baltimore needs all the assistance it can get in reducing violence. Spikes in crime impede progress on every front and are a serious drain on the quality of life that all our citizens deserve. We’re working to reduce violence, improve the quality of life in our city and make all residents, business owners, employees and students feel safe in Baltimore. A Hopkins police team with city oversight can work for everybody.
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This article originally appeared in The Afro.