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Thousands sign petition calling on Johns Hopkins University to abandon its plan to create a private police force

Posted at 10:49 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 07:26:09-04

BALTIMORE — As calls grow louder across the nation to defund police, a group of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) faculty members is urging the school to abandon its plan to create a private police force.

More than 250 JHU staff members were among 2,500 people who signed a petition calling on the university's president to not move forward with the plan, citing police brutality and the death of George Floyd, as reasons the school should reconsider.

The group sent a letter to the president as well.

Erini Lambrides is a member of the Teachers and Researchers Union (TRU) --a graduate student union at JHU. Lambrides and TRU have been fighting against the creation of a private police for more than a year.

She also is one of the 2,500 people who signed the petition, hoping to stop the plan from moving forward. Lambrides believes it could harm minority staff and students because of possible racial profiling.

"The fear is that people are going to die," she said. "The fear is that people are going to get harmed. And the fear is that people are going to feel unsafe. That’s the fear."

Last year, the state gave the university the go ahead to create a private police force, but it was not without controversy. At the time, students organized sit-ins on campus to protest the university's decision, which led to several of them being arrested.

“The entire campus has voted from the faculty level, graduate level and undergraduate level, and it’s overwhelming opposition to this police force," she said.

To date, the private police force 'does not yet exist', a JHU spokesperson said.

In a statement, the university said it takes to heart the renewed questions on policing, adding “we are committed to establishing this department through a slow, careful and fully open process.”

The university also condemned the killing of George Floyd, while joining the nationwide demand to end to racial injustices.

But, Lambrides and other opponents, believe if the university cares about "racial injustices", it should stop its plans to create the private police force.

“It’s hypocritical," she said. "How can the university say they care about black people, 'Black Lives Matter', if one of the most contentious issues [police brutality] happening right now on the streets is not being critically examined by our own university.”

You can read Johns Hopkins University's full statement here:

We share the community’s anguish and anger regarding the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and we join those across the nation demanding an end to racial injustice. This incident is one among far too many in a long and brutal history of grotesque, systemic racism against African Americans that has shaped this nation and so many of its cities, including our own.

In this painful moment, we hear and take to heart the renewed questions and concerns about policing in America and its implications for the establishment of a Johns Hopkins Police Department. Importantly, the JHPD does not yet exist. We committed to establishing this department through a slow, careful and fully open process. The only step taken to date has been the recent first meeting of the JHPD Accountability Board, which is composed of neighbors, faculty, staff, and students with diverse views about policing. No other steps are planned at this time, and we will be in close communication with the city and our university community before any further steps are taken.