The university announced the appointment of Branville Bard Jr., the current vice president of public safety, as chief of police for the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD) in an email to university affiliates on April 20.
In the email, President Ronald J. Daniels, Interim Dean of the School of Medicine Theodore DeWeese and Hopkins Health System President Kevin W. Sowers highlighted Bard’s dedication to the community as vice president for public safety. In addition, they drew attention to his role in the creation of the Innovation Fund for Community Safety and the Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team and his previous experience working in several police departments.
“Bard spent 24 years working for his hometown Philadelphia Police Department, leading the city’s largest police district and later serving as chief of the Philadelphia Housing Authority Police Department,” they wrote. “He subsequently served as Police Commissioner for Cambridge, [Mass.].”
The email also emphasized Bard’s academic credentials, noting that he has a doctorate in public administration and master’s degrees in criminal justice and public safety management.
In an email to The newsletterassistant vice president of media relations and news JB Bird elaborated on the reasoning behind Bard’s selection.
“Dr. Bard was selected based on his outstanding performance in the role of Vice President for Public Safety over the past year and a half, his highly relevant experience, particularly in the area of police reform, and the overwhelmingly positive feedback received by university administration about his effectiveness and relationship building within the campus community and beyond,” he wrote. “We believe it will benefit Hopkins to have a single leader, with Dr. Bard’s experience and commitment to our community acting to lead the entire public safety portfolio.”
According to him, students have shared positive feedback in support of Bard’s position.
In an email to The newsletterclaimed Black Student Union President Jayla Scott that while Bard appears to be an excellent candidate for the role, his belief in the necessity of policing has made him unwilling to listen to all perspectives expressed by the community.
“Branville Bard is the ‘perfect’ candidate for police chief [the University’s] supposedly model police force,” Scott wrote. “He’s a racial minority, he’s got one [doctorate degree] and wrote his thesis on racial profiling and he has worked at the university. Dr. However, Bard is 100% pro-police. To him, public safety cannot exist without policing, so regardless of what community members, students, staff and professors say, Dr. Bard only listen to feedback from the local community, wishes and criticism, which includes a future for the police.”
Scott also pointed out that Bard does not have a spotless record when it comes to responsible policing.
“During some of the time he was captain of the Philadelphia Police Department, the police department was under consent decree for illegal stops,” they wrote. “In 2018, he defended the use of force in a viral video by a 21-year-old Black Harvard student.”
In an email to university affiliates sent later on April 20, Bard outlined the next steps for JHPD’s development. These steps include the creation of a JHPD leadership team, the beginning of the process of hiring officers, and the drafting of the policies that will guide the routine operations of the JHPD.
Bard’s email noted that the policies will be posted online to ensure transparency.
“In keeping with our commitment to transparency and community partnership, these policies will be provided to the JHPD Accountability Board and posted in draft form on the public safety website beginning in late June and continuing through the summer,” he wrote. “All draft policies will be available for a 60-day period of community review and feedback, then finalized to reflect that input and published by October 1.”
Bard also emphasized his desire to engage in dialogue and partnership with society.
In an email to The newsletternoted senior Hanan Abdellatif, this should be a given for every university police department.
“Dr. Bard has some admirable goals for the JHPD: community-oriented policing, transparency and accountability, and upholding ‘best practices’ established by nationwide police reform movements,” Abdellatif wrote. “At the same time, however, I would point out that these goals serve as the bare minimum for any institution tasked with ensuring public safety.”
Senior Sarah Sullivan shared her appreciation for Bard’s commitment to community dialogue, but questioned the institution of JHPD in an email to The newsletter.
“I commend Dr. Bard for striving to apply community feedback to JHPD’s operations,” she wrote. “But he will lead an organization built on an administrative conspiracy to purposefully neglect community and student opposition. I don’t understand how he can reconcile that fact with his alleged goals.”
The JHPD has been a source of significant controversy and debate among university affiliates and community members since plans for its development were first announced in 2018. The university put those plans on hold for two years following the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, but resumed implementation late eventually. year.
Sullivan claimed that this pause was designed to wait for protesters to upgrade.
“The Hopkins administration has made the same claims to students and community members surrounding the creation of JHPD since I arrived in 2019,” she wrote. “After observing significant opposition to the creation of a private police force, the administration chose to delay its plans and wait for student protesters to graduate, effectively shirking their responsibility to respond to negative input.”
In an interview with the newsletter, freshman Caitlyn Ramdat expressed concern about Bard’s appointment. She feels this serves as yet another reminder that the development of JHPD is moving forward without open dialogue in the community.
“Despite the opinions expressed by students over the last few years, things are moving forward and we’re just getting updates on what’s happening without any discussion — there’s no input from the public,” she said. “We can’t do it. nothing about it, and that makes it worse.”