Statement of Solidarity Against the Private Police Force

from Hopkins Library Workers for Structural Justice

On June 12, 2020, the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine administration announced a two-year pause of the implementation of the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD). This announcement came following heightened attention to acts of police violence in our nation, as well as sustained advocacy by students, faculty, staff, and community members against the JHPD. Johns Hopkins University and Medicine campuses are not immune to society’s discriminatory and violent criminal justice system. As anti-racist library workers, we particularly oppose the damage that private policing and surveillance will cause in our libraries, where the provision of personal privacy and safety is essential to free inquiry. The Johns Hopkins Libraries and Museums must provide an environment that is safe and accessible to all patrons, and freeing our spaces from surveillance and police intervention is critical to this effort. We have seen how librarians can actively resist surveillance and ensure the privacy of local communities through examples from the Library Freedom Project. With these ideas in mind, we believe that library workers should speak out against police within their libraries. Therefore, we unequivocally 1) oppose the creation of a Johns Hopkins Police Department and, 2) call upon the Johns Hopkins Libraries and Museums to endorse and actively work towards the abolitionist demands outlined in this statement.

We reiterate previous statements from our community: a private police force will disproportionately harm Black and brown students, staff, and community members. In a moment where the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow in response to the murders of Adam Toledo, Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and numerous others, we stand in solidarity with the people of color in our community. Furthermore, we do not need to look far to see the devastating impact of policing. The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) has an extensively documented and ongoing culture of brutality, corruption, and abuse. Citing the systemic, unconstitutional, and racist practices of the police department — especially their targeted abuse of Black communities — the Department of Justice found it necessary to establish a consent decree over the BPD in 2017.

The BPD is not an outlier: its actions are symptomatic of the inherent harm and injustice found in all policing — including Johns Hopkins’ proposed private police force. As stated in the Open Letter From Concerned JHU Alumni (May 2019), “University police forces have time and again committed acts of violence against people of color in their attempts to secure the safety of university campuses.” Instituting a private police force would therefore contribute to a long history of oppressive, racist, and patriarchal actions by Hopkins towards Baltimore communities, especially Black and brown communities. This includes, but is not limited to, a legacy of racist medical testing, racist healthcare, and the destruction of the Middle East neighborhood from 2001 to 2011. The Hopkins-led charge to “revitalize” Middle East Baltimore forcibly removed over 800 families from their homes, demolished over 2,000 row houses, and caused years of stress and suffering for residents of a low-income, majority Black neighborhood near the University hospital. Given this record, we cannot expect Baltimore residents to trust Hopkins’ bad-faith promises about the benefits of “community” policing — nor should they.

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) students, faculty, and staff already face systemic discrimination, profiling, and surveillance by Hopkins security, creating a hostile and unsafe campus environment for affiliates and community members alike. In solidarity with those who have taken action to prevent the creation of a private Johns Hopkins police force and as practitioners of anti-racist librarianship, we believe that the development of a private university police force creates harm. Given historical precedents, it will lead to unacceptable dangers to the lives and well-being of people of color — especially Black students, staff, faculty, and community members; people with mental illness; LGBTQIA+ people; and anyone else vulnerable to harassment and violence.

We also protest the ways in which the development of a private police force has been undertaken since its announcement in 2018. Although the University claimed to provide numerous opportunities for conversation on how a Hopkins police force might function, it was clear that there was no opportunity to discuss whether a police force was appropriate. Donations made by University administrators to Mayor Catherine Pugh one month prior to the introduction of police force legislation undermined trust in the administration and its willingness to openly discuss the very existence of the police force. Trust was further weakened during the Garland Hall Sit-In, in which a transgender woman was arrested (along with six others) and taken to the wrong facility despite identifying herself as a woman. The latest update from the administration in June 2020 announcing a two-year pause therefore comes across as an attempt to wait for our community to forget its grievances.

As a leader in the research and academic world, Johns Hopkins Libraries and Museums should adopt a progressive new model of safety and community in place of complicity with a private police force — pausing is not enough. The libraries must also commit to creating safer, more inclusive spaces for patrons and staff without relying on campus security or police.

In signing this statement, we join with workers from other libraries — public or private, large or small, in urban or rural areas — who are calling for divestment and abolition. We wholeheartedly support the “Call for Ivy+ Libraries to Divest from Police and Prisons and Invest in Life-Giving Resources,” and the seven demands issued to these institutions, including Johns Hopkins Libraries and Museums, to critically address how policing and surveillance fundamentally contradict the ethics of librarianship. In conjunction with this call, we demand that the Johns Hopkins Libraries and Museums:

1.Issue a formal statement against the creation of a Johns Hopkins Police Department and stand in support with existing student, staff, faculty, and community petitions against private policing.

2. Sign “A Call for Ivy+ Libraries to Divest from Police and Prisons and Invest in Life-Giving Resources” and develop concrete steps to enact the petition’s demands.

3. Give full institutional support to investigating and making transparent the extent of the University Libraries’ complicity with policing, surveillance, and anti-inclusive practices. This investigation should include:

  • A detailed report on the extent of the libraries’ financial investment in policing, security, and surveillance.
  • Data on library incidents that required security intervention as well as reported incidences of harassment by library security.
  • A full survey of all surveillance and data-mining technology used within library spaces and online platforms.
  • Current policies and procedures for bringing armed police into library spaces.

4. Collaborate with faculty, student, and community activists to develop and enact library policies that center an abolitionist praxis of transformative justice and harm reduction and eliminate reliance on policing.

Conclusion

In solidarity with our Johns Hopkins community members and our colleagues in the Abolitionist Library Association, Ivy+ Chapter, we, the undersigned workers of the Johns Hopkins Libraries and Museums call for the administration to discontinue implementation of the JHPD permanently. We stand with students, faculty, and community members against the creation of a private police force. We look forward to the realization of our above demands within our libraries to help create a future free of policing and surveillance. From this, we can foster a campus environment where we keep each other safe.

Signatories:

Add your signature through this form: https://forms.gle/Ef7JZaysuis2ocm89

  • Michelle Janowiecki, Digital Content Metadata Specialist, Sheridan Libraries; Baltimore City Resident
  • Allison Seyler, Hopkins Retrospective Program Manager, Sheridan Libraries; Baltimore City Resident
  • Heather Furnas, Librarian for History, Africana Studies, and History of Science & Technology, Sheridan Libraries and Museums
  • Anonymous, JHU library worker; JHU alum; Baltimore community member
  • Gabrielle Dean, Curator, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University
  • Kristen Diehl, Processing Archivist, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University
  • Lena Denis, Geospatial Data, GIS, and Maps Librarian; A&S ’11; Baltimore City Resident
  • Matt Testa, Archivist, Arthur Friedheim Library, Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University
  • Anonymous, JHU library worker; current JHU student; JHU faculty or staff member
  • LaDonna Pierce; JHU faculty or staff member
  • Jessica Keyes, User Experience Analyst, Sheridan Libraries, Baltimore City Resident
  • Anna Loewenthal, Content Management Librarian, Sheridan Libraries; Baltimore City Resident
  • Anonymous, Homewood Instructor and Staff Member
  • Anita Norton, JHU library worker
  • Andrea Copland, Outreach & Instruction Librarian, Arthur Friedheim Library, Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University; JHU Alum
  • Sharon Morris, JHU library worker
  • Anonymous, JHU faculty or staff member
  • Anonymous, JHU faculty or staff member, Lecturer, Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
  • Robin Reilly, JHU library worker
  • Reina Chano Murray, Geospatial Data Curator and Applications Administrator, Sheridan Libraries; Baltimore City Resident
  • Robin N Sinn, Coordinator, Office of Scholarly Communication, Johns Hopkins Libraries
  • Marley Kalt, Data Management Consultant, Sheridan Libraries
  • Laura Stokes, Director of Private Events, Sheridan Libraries and Museums, Baltimore City Resident
  • Alison Carter-Lazalde, Receiving and Distribution Assistant, Sheridan Libraries; Baltimore community member
  • Donald Juedes, Humanities Librarian, Eisenhower Library, JHU; JHU library worker; JHU faculty or staff member
  • Robbie Shilliam, Professor of International Relations, JHU; JHU faculty or staff member
  • Jennifer Hill; JHU library worker
  • Francois Furstenberg, History, KSAS, JHU; JHU faculty or staff member
  • Naveeda Khan, Associate Professor, Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University; JHU faculty or staff member, Baltimore community member
  • Toby Ditz, Emeritus Professor of History, JHU; JHU faculty or staff member
  • Derek Schilling, Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures, KSAS; JHU faculty or staff member
  • Lester Spence, Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies; JHU faculty or staff member
  • Tim DiLauro, Former Sheridan Libraries staff; JHU retiree; JHU alum
  • Elizabeth England, Former Library Worker, Sheridan Libraries; Former Baltimore City Resident
  • Nike Carstarphen, Baltimore City Resident
  • Kristen Hoover, A friend of the Library Staff
  • Elisabeth Pallia, Sr. Instructional Technologist; JHU faculty or staff member
  • Elizabeth Tolbert, Professor of Musicology, Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University
  • Zach Murphy, Medical Student, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Laurel Poolman, GIS and Data Specialist, Sheridan Libraries; PhD Candidate in Near Eastern Studies
  • Lingxin Zhang, 7th year graduate student of Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; student librarian at Milton Eisenhower Library
  • Tori Finlayson; current JHU student
  • Morgan Moroney, Graduate Student, Near Eastern Studies, JHU
  • Jill S. Waller, Graduate student and library worker
  • Amy Brazil, Baltimore City resident
  • Beverly J. Silver, Professor of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University
  • Paige Paulsen, current JHU student
  • Katie Stewart, JHU library worker
  • Alison Clemens, library worker
  • Kate Flores, Johns Hopkins Alumna (KSAS), Baltimore City resident
  • Anonymous, library worker
  • Sindhu Carmen Sivakumaren, JHU alum (KSAS)
  • Josh Honn, library worker, Northwestern University
  • Anonymous, JHU faculty or staff, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore City Resident
  • Becca Greenstein, library worker, faculty or staff member, Northwestern University Libraries
  • Amy Wickner, library worker, UMD-AAUP
  • Brianna Barry, graduate student, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Selena Anjur-Dietrich, current JHU student, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
  • Durgesh Solanki, graduate student, Sociology, JHU, Baltimore City Resident
  • Kristen Acampora, Events and Marketing Coordinator, Sheridan Libraries; Baltimore City Resident
  • Anonymous, JHU faculty or staff, Bloomberg, Homewood
  • Eva Yezerets, Ph.D. student, Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Tanvi Avasthi, RN, JHU alum, non-affiliated faculty or staff member
  • Anicia Timberlake, JHU faculty or staff, Assistant Professor of Musicology, Peabody Institute
  • Maggie Foust, Reference Librarian, Baltimore City Resident
  • Divya Manoharan, Medical Student, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

In Solidarity With:

Sources:

To contact us, please email: jhlib4structuraljustice at gmail dot com

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