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- I am writing to oppose SB793 and HB1094. As an Upper Fells Point resident in District 46, I see the effects that crime has on our community and completely agree that the area around a first class institution like Hopkins needs to feel safe and inviting. However, creating a splinter police department is not the answer.
- The Baltimore Police Department is currently under a consent decree that is putting in place policies and practices that are making constitutionally complaint after a long history of corruption and abuse. Hopkins has sold it's police department as a way to create a force that does not have that history. But this legislation has nothing in it that protects against this new department going down the same path that the BPD did. The language in this bill talks aspirationally about being a good department, but has no requirement for that.
- As a member of the community relations team on the Independent Monitor for the consent decree, I have seen the amount of work that has gone into reforming the BPD. This will likely take longer than the five years that was originally budgeted, and will take thousands of man hours by subject matter experts. Reform is hard work, and this new department would not be subject to any of these reforms.
- This legislation was rejected last year, in part, because Hopkins had not done enough to engage the community. My neighborhood, Upper Fells Point, is a block and a half from the southernmost Hopkins building on Broadway. Despite the fact that I am a member of our Safety Committee, an advocate for the BPD reform, a former member of the monitoring team, and the spouse of a Hopkins employee, the first time I saw Hopkins’ outreach was at our February community meeting. Despite commenting on the white paper on their website, all I got was a form response thanking me for my comments.
- Coming to a community meeting after the legislation has been introduced is not outreach; it's marketing. Because of the lack of outreach, there are a lot of misconceptions about what this bill would do, and Hopkins is happy to let people think whatever they want because most people assume that it means more police, as opposed to the fact that it will only replace the BPD patrols that are already there. This is not about getting feedback, but forcing the same bill that they wanted in the first place. That is why much of the support comes from out of towners like Mr Bloomberg.
- In the white paper that Hopkins released last year, they listed a few options for increasing security on their campuses. One was creating their own department, but another was the “BPD option”. Many of the reasons they said it would not work was because of things like a lack of trust in the department, or corruption. These issues were identified in 2016 by the Department of Justice, and are the basis for the legally mandated consent decree the BPD is currently under. Instead of Hopkins acting as a leader in our community and leaning into the BPD reforms, they are trying to opt out and reinforce the Hopkins bubble a little more.
- I have been to many, many consent decree related meetings and events, and never seen a Hopkins representative there. That's a travesty for an institution that says it cares about being a part of the city.
- This legislation is flawed, as it has very little independent oversight. There are few mechanisms to deal with corruption, as it relies on the Civilian Review Board, which has been a toothless enforcement tool for most of its existence. It also has an oversight board, but that is filled mainly by Hopkins. We could be in the position in ten years where we have a reformed BPD, and a corrupt Hopkins police force.
- Please vote to reject this bill.
- Thank you,
- Brian Seel
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