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Students protest plan to add private police force at Johns Hopkins

Student protesters shutdown town hall meeting on Johns Hopkins police force
Student protesters shutdown town hall meeting on Johns Hopkins police force 02:59

BALTIMORE -- Three years after protests broke out at Johns Hopkins University over the school's plan to create a private police force, the school has revived its plan.

But it's coming with another round of pushback.

Students brought signs and megaphones, and were chanting over part of the presentation -- to the point the school had to pause the meeting.

Some students say they'll feel safer with additional security, others saying they don't want police on campus at all.

"I think there's absolutely no excuse for there to be more cops on campus," said freshman Calvin Runnels.

This was the Johns Hopkins' first town hall about the memorandum of understanding between the university and the Baltimore Police Department as the school moves forward with plans to establish its own private police force.

It's something Dr. Branville Bard Jr., the university's vice president of public safety, says has been in the works for some time. 

"It's of upmost importance that we ensure everyone who comes here to study to work to do research is safe," he said.

According to the draft document, the university's armed officers will wear body cameras and are responsible to patrol the university's Homewood, Peabody and medical campuses.

They'll only be allowed to exercise police powers off campus when pursing a suspect or directing traffic, while city police handle crimes that require a mobile crime unit. 

"Public safety is always going to be more than just policing," said Bard. 

The plan has been a hot topic of debate. It was put on hold three years ago after the nationwide protests erupted following the death of George Floyd, who died after Officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on Floyd's neck.

But now Johns Hopkins' proposal is now back up for public comment.

Assistant track and field coach Shedrick Elliot III said he thinks a private force is a good idea.

"Eighteen to 22-years-olds could almost dictate to a degree, Hey this is how we want our police force to look like, this is how we want them to police us," he said.

But students like Runnels aren't interested.

"I think it would be better to have no police on campus," said Runnels. "Police don't make us safer, we make us safer."

This was the first of three town halls. There will be another one on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

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