Earlier this week, the new Vice President for Public Safety of Johns Hopkins University and Hopkins Medicine Branville Bard Jr. discussed the university’s planned armed private police force in an internal email sent to “the Johns Hopkins Community” and obtained by Battleground Baltimore. The email is light on specifics and heavy on, well, saying the right thing, and that’s what makes it interesting.

“I was excited about the opportunity to take on this role at Johns Hopkins because of the institution’s comprehensive vision for public safety, one that reflects the truth I have long understood: There is far more to public safety than police or security officers; they are just one element of our broader public safety strategy,” Bard wrote.

Bard joined Hopkins in July. From 2017-2021 he was the police commissioner of the Cambridge Police Department in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and before that, he spent 21 years with the Philadelphia Police Department. In the email, Bard promised to begin speaking to Baltimoreans, Hopkins students and faculty, and “affinity groups” about the private police force. 

A look at Bard’s work in Cambridge suggests a similar approach to Hopkins: deploying social justice language while defending and misrepresenting police powers in the name of reform.

“Throughout my career, some of my most important relationships have been with those who are critical of the police. Indeed, I have found that often those who harbor the strongest objections to policing have the potential to be the most instructive in our growth and improvement,” Bard wrote.

Since March of 2018, soon after a state-level bill that would have allowed the university to establish its own police force was introduced, Hopkins students and faculty, along with those who live near the two Hopkins campuses, have organized against the plan. They opposed more police in their neighborhoods and invoked Tyrone West, a Black man who was killed by Baltimore Police and Morgan State University police in 2013. They were also, more broadly, protesting Hopkins as an incredibly powerful institution that lords its prestige over the city to get what it wants and expand its power—and an institution that should pay more taxes.

Protests against the private police force escalated in April 2019 with a month-long occupation of Garland Hall, a building on the Homewood campus. That occupation was eventually ended by Baltimore Police, who broke the doors of the building to get in, removed and arrested the students, and, in the process, misgendered one arrestee. “Your friend is a man,” one cop told students pleading for their friend to be moved to the police van designated for women arrestees.

The police, it appeared, had proven the activists’ point. But the private police bill soon passed, allowing Hopkins to create its own police force.

Then, the police in Minnesota murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and it briefly became gauche to call for more cops. Ronald Daniels, Hopkins’ president, announced a “pause” on the police force for “at least two years” in June 2020.

In July 2021, barely a year after the pause was announced, Bard was hired. 

Bard’s email frames his current period of establishing the police force as a way to “respect the two-year pause in the development of the eventual JHPD,” confirming that the “two-year pause” only referred to the implementation of the police force and not the ongoing development of it. This was as many activists suspected back in 2020. At the time, they called the announcement of the pause a “PR move” in response to George Floyd and saw it as cynical: realistically, Hopkins couldn’t fully launch the police force in less than two years, anyway.

A look at Bard’s work in Cambridge suggests a similar approach to Hopkins: deploying social justice language while defending and misrepresenting police powers in the name of reform.

“I was born and raised in Southwest Philly, a place not too different from Baltimore, as one of six kids. Policing in that time and that place—and the policing that I witnessed first hand—was often conducted at the end of a nightstick,” Bard wrote in the email. “Those early experiences served as a model to me for what policing should not be.”

In April 2018, police officers for Bard’s Cambridge Police Department did not conduct their policing with nightsticks, but they did use their fists. They tackled and arrested a Black Harvard student who had removed all of his clothes and allegedly threw them at someone. Witnesses to the man’s arrest said the officers punched the student multiple times in the stomach. 

“A naked, unarmed Black man, stood still on the median,” a statement from the Harvard Black Law Students Association (BLSA) said. “He was surrounded by at least four Cambridge Police Department (CPD) officers who, without provocation, lunged at him, tackled him and pinned him to the ground.”

Last year, at around the same time that Hopkins put its supposed “pause” on the police force, Bard was in Cambridge boasting that his department did not have any, in his words, “military equipment.” This was not true: The Boston Globe later revealed that Cambridge Police were in possession of 64 M4 assault rifles, sniper rifles, and an armored vehicle.

Bard unequivocally defended the officers’ actions.

“I absolutely do support the officers,” Bard said at a press conference two days after the incident. “You have to judge their actions within the context of a rapidly evolving situation and not within an ideal construct.”

And last year, at around the same time that Hopkins put its supposed “pause” on the police force, Bard was in Cambridge boasting that his department did not have any, in his words, “military equipment.” This was not true: The Boston Globe later revealed that Cambridge Police were in possession of 64 M4 assault rifles, sniper rifles, and an armored vehicle.

Bard then claimed that what he meant was that his police department “did not possess materials that are restricted to the military by law.”

Earlier this year, a bill sponsored by longtime police reform advocate Maryland State Sen. Jill Carter, which would have repealed the private police force bill, died in committee.

“It should not have required the protest of George Floyd to come to that conclusion, given the fact that they’ve had staff, residents, students overwhelmingly not in support of the police force,” Carter said at the time. “Hopkins has a record of exploiting generations of persons of color, city and University namesake.”

Baltimore City to consider local control of its cops

“I will hold [the Baltimore Police Department] accountable as mayor,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott told the Real News at the beginning of this year, a few weeks after he was sworn in. 

Scott focused on accountability by way of getting the city’s police department back in control of the city. The Baltimore Police Department is a state agency, not a city agency, and Scott, like many others, has long argued that state control severely limits how much the city can do to hold cops accountable.

“We need local control over BPD, we need to listen to our residents and youth organizers,” Scott said. 

During the last legislative session, a bill that could make the police locally controlled again passed. The bill would ultimately put local control of the police—for the first time since the State of Maryland seized control of the Baltimore Police Department during the Civil War—on the ballot to be decided by voters. 

Mayor Scott, who had a hand in getting the bill to Annapolis, announced the Local Control Advisory Board and swore in its community-appointed members in late August. Now, there is a set date for the group to start looking into local control: Oct. 27.

“After a decade of advocacy in Annapolis, Baltimore City is one step closer to having local control of its police department for the very first time,” Scott said in a press release. “The ability to set policies and provide oversight locally will enable us to transform the Baltimore Police Department, while also fulfilling our consent decree requirements with integrity.”

The Baltimore Police Department is a state agency, not a city agency, and Scott, like many others, has long argued that state control severely limits how much the city can do to hold cops accountable.

Included on the Local Control Advisory Board is Robert Cherry, a Baltimore Police veteran appointed to the position provided to the Fraternal Order of Police. 

In 2012, when Cherry was the President of the Fraternal Order of Police, he dismissed the concerns of whistleblowing Baltimore cop Joe Crystal, who, after reporting misconduct from fellow officers, found a rat on his car’s windshield. According to Crystal, Cherry told him that police units are “blood in, blood out” and Crystal should begin looking for a police job in another city. Cherry’s FOP also represented Sgt. Marinos Gialamas, who allegedly looked on as another officer beat up a suspect. Cherry was a character witness for Gialamas.

In 2017, Cherry mocked a shooting that happened in the radical bookstore Red Emma’s (he later deleted the tweet). 

This year, Cherry posted a gruesome photo of a homicide victim (since deleted) to make some kind of point about Baltimore’s murder rate. Earlier this month, Cherry tweeted that he would use his position on the Local Control Advisory Board to call attention to “silence to incompetence” going on in the department. Cherry claims that those in charge do not hold commanders responsible. What that has to do with local control of the police was not clear.

The first meeting of the Local Control Advisory Board takes place on Oct. 27 at 5:30PM.

Walters Museum still won’t recognize union 

Walters Workers United (WWU), a proposed union that would represent all Walters Art Museum workers which has yet to be recognized by their bosses, took their case to the Baltimore City Council on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Back in April, WWU announced its intention to form a wall-to-wall union which would include everybody employed by the museum and eligible (including the museum’s security guards) in order to negotiate equity in pay, more opportunities to advance, and better work conditions.

The Walters has demanded WWU hold a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election, which would require a majority vote. But WWU is organized through the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) because it is the trade union for city employees. They have repeatedly said they have a supermajority anyway.

In June, City Council passed a resolution so that the council would look at what collective bargaining through the city could look like for WWU, and the hearing on Thursday night was where WWU and the Walters began to make their cases. 

The Walters has demanded WWU hold a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election, which would require a majority vote.

Director of the Walters Julia Marciari-Alexander maintained the museum’s party line: The museum is “impartial” in the process. The Walters, however, has not recognized the union and wants to bring the issue before the National Labor Relations Board. That’s an issue because, as was discussed during the hearing, the Walters is generally understood as a public institution and the NLRB, due to the National Labor Relations Act, primarily handles private institutions. Few would reasonably think of the museum as “private.” The museum’s staff, for example, receive their health benefits through the city, and though other money for the museum comes through private funding, Baltimore City has some control over the museum. 

Unionizing through AFSCME would enable the union to include the museum’s security guards. Teague Paterson, lawyer for AFSCME, argued to council that the Walters’ hybrid public/private setup means it is out of the NLRB’s jurisdiction.

Due to the Walters’ inaction in recognizing the union and calls for the NLRB to get involved (which would make it so security guards couldn’t join), Paterson accused the museum of “union-busting.” 

As WYPR reported, Mayor Scott supports the Walters’ employees’ union.

“As a strong supporter of workers’ rights, Mayor Scott is carefully monitoring the organizing efforts at the Walters Art Museum,” Scott spokesman Cal Harris said in a statement. “The Mayor will always fight for workers to have the right to unionize, and will defend their ability to do so fairly and freely.”

For an excellent explanation of the Walters unionization effort, read Rebekah Kirkman’s “The Way Forward for Walters Workers United” over at BmoreArt.

Lisa Moody (1967-2021)

“RIP Lisa Moody,” someone wrote with chalk in big bubbly letters on the sidewalk in front of Baltimore dance club and after hours spot Club 1722 earlier this week. Moody, a Baltimore house DJ and promoter best known for the seminal house music party Deep Sugar, died over the weekend. No information on the cause of her death has been released.

Moody’s death is another blow for Baltimore’s storied dance culture, which has afforded catharsis and escape for all of Baltimore—but especially its Black working class—for decades even as development and other moneyed interests continue to undermine the close-knit scene. Back in February, Baltimore club vocalist Jimmy Jones died. The Paradox, a nightclub that specialized in house and club music, was demolished last year.

On Nov. 21 at Baltimore Soundstage, what was intended to be the 18th anniversary of Deep Sugar is now a celebration of life for Moody. Baltimore house icons such as Ultra Nate (who created Deep Sugar with Moody) and Wayne Davis will be there alongside house legends such as David Morales and Kenny Bobien, all paying tribute and keeping the inclusive vibes of Deep Sugar alive.

Hogan wants to “refund” the already overfunded police

As we were wrapping up this week’s installment of Battleground Baltimore, Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan threw out some red meat we can only imagine he believes will increase his chances of electability on a national level among the frothing law-and-order types that make up much of the Republican Party. Hogan announced his “Refund the Police” initiative, which seems squarely aimed at perpetuating the myth that the police were ever significantly “defunded.” In fact, most departments have received additional funding in 2021, including the Baltimore Police Department. Despite BPD getting additional money this year, Hogan spent his presser criticizing Baltimore and some of its elected officials (including Councilperson Ryan Dorsey and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby) and suggesting that even more money on top of the $555 million the police in Baltimore get will reduce crime.

“The city of Baltimore is a poster child for the basic failure to stop lawlessness. There’s a prosecutor who refuses to prosecute crime and there’s a revolving door of repeat offenders who are being let right back onto the streets to shoot people again and again,” Hogan said.

We won’t even get into all the ways this is incorrect, we will just point you to Battleground Baltimore’s thread of the week below, which shows the attorneys who work for Mosby (who Hogan accuses of being too soft on crime) successfully arguing for keeping children in jail.

Thread of the Week: @Bmorecourtwatch on children tried as adults

This week’s thread from Baltimore Courtwatch details the arguments presented by the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office for keeping children in jail and illustrates how frequently judges go along with these arguments. There were five cases on Thursday, Oct. 14 (Thursday is dedicated to children tried as adults): The SAO requested holding each of these children without bail, and the judge ordered “HWOB” each time. Among the most tragic is a case involving a child who requested a modification to his home monitoring so that he could attend an after-school event. Because the child’s schedule was not provided to the SAO early, the modification was denied last week. This week, @Bmorecourtwatch explained, “he no longer wants to participate in the after-school activity and has asked the modification request be withdrawn.” 

Tweet of the Week: @LisaMcCray on last year’s Columbus Day

“Just wanted to remind everyone of the time Baltimore activists threw a Columbus statue in the harbor and then conservatives tried to take it out and the head came off,” Lisa Snowden-McCray (who will already miss dearly here at Battleground Baltimore) tweeted, capturing the absurdity of the reactionary “Columbus, a genocidal rapist, was good actually” crowd who attempted to salvage Baltimore’s Columbus statue after it was pulled over and thrown into the harbor last year.

Brandon Soderberg

Brandon Soderberg is a Baltimore-based writer reporting on guns, drugs, and police corruption. He is the coauthor of I Got a Monster: The Rise and Fall of America’s Most Corrupt Police Squad. Formerly, he was the editor-in-chief of the Baltimore City Paper. His work has appeared in The Intercept, VICE, The Appeal, and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @notrivia.