Sen.-elect Washington Gives Thumbs-Down to Hopkins Police Plan

    The incoming state senator for the district that borders the main campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore went on social media Wednesday to take issue with an interview that state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) recently gave about policing in the city.

    Sen.-elect Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) made it clear that she’ll oppose legislation, which Miller endorsed in a Baltimore Sun interview published earlier this week, that would enable Hopkins to set up its own police force.

    “I have done a great deal of thinking and research on the role of policing and the issue of public safety in and around our K-8 schools and our colleges and universities,” Washington wrote in a long Facebook post. “And like many challenges, there are not easy or quick answers, but there are policies that we know have failed, and move us farther away from creating the type of City or State we want to live in, and simply furthers the ‘town/gown’ and ‘haves/have-nots’ racial and economic disparities that plague our current systems of education, healthcare, transportation, housing and criminal justice.”

    Washington continued: “As a Hopkins Alumnae, former community association president, Delegate and as the Senator-elect from the one of the legislative districts most directly impacted, allow me to be perfectly clear. I am strongly and unconditionally opposed to any proposal that would allow Johns Hopkins University to wholly own and operate a private police force.”

    In the Sun interview, in addition to backing the Hopkins plan, Miller said he wanted to help the city of Baltimore hire 500 more police officers and he endorsed the idea of building a second police training academy for the state at Coppin State University.

    Miller suggested that philanthropist and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Hopkins alumnus who recently donated $1.8 billion to his alma mater, would favor a police department dedicated to protecting the university and medical center and related institutions. And he compared a police force for Hopkins to police departments at the University of Maryland and other state academic institutions.

    In her Facebook post, Washington said she understood the fear of residents, workers, students and visitors about violent crime in Baltimore and the “urgency” of addressing it, and she applauded Miller for his eagerness to find solutions. But she wrote: “We must however, fully consider not only the expressed short-term solution but also long lasting, and unintended consequences of awarding a single, powerful, well-funded institutional private actor with national and global reach the same powers afforded local counties and municipalities in the area of law enforcement and the advancement of its own economic interests.”

    Washington also said a private police force would have little accountability in the community, “at a time when we’ve all witnessed, firsthand, the devastating results of unchecked police power in our most vulnerable communities.”

    Washington concluded: “I look forward to working with my neighbors and consituents [sic], and colleagues in the House and Senate over the course of the session and the year ahead to get it right. Stay tuned.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.