On Tuesday morning, a group of senior BUILD community leaders and clergy spent an hour meeting with Acting Police Commissioner Harrison and Mayor Catherine Pugh. The meeting had been arranged by our mayor and her staff, to follow through on her commitment to BUILD that she would make this meeting happen within a certain period of time of Acting Commissioner Harrison’s arrival in Baltimore. The purpose of the meeting was for BUILD and Acting Commissioner Harrison to begin our public relationship and to see how our visions for building a city that is safe for everyone to work and live in might align.
After the meeting was over, our BUILD team gathered in a conference room at City Hall for a routine evaluation of what had just occurred. The reactions I heard most often voiced around our circle were “hopeful” (some tempered their reaction with “cautiously”) and “optimistic”. Acting Commissioner Harrison, from my own first impression of him up close and in person, spoke with an authenticity and integrity about his commitment to leading the reformation of our city’s police department; his commitment to accountable, constitutional, community policing based on proven best practices from around our country and other countries; and his recognition that in order to succeed at this formidable, gargantuan task, he needs to work alongside BUILD and other key community partners. For a first meeting, it felt like a good new beginning.
Then on Tuesday evening, many of this same group of BUILD leaders and clergy had dinner with Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels at his residence in Nichols House. This social gathering had been scheduled months ago, on the invitation and initiation of President Daniels, to celebrate and recognize BUILD’s partnership with Hopkins to build One Baltimore together, and his own personal belief in and commitment to this partnership.
As it turns out, our gathering was timely; last Friday, a handful of BUILD leaders traveled to Annapolis in support of President Daniels and the proposed Community Safety and Strengthening Act (SB 793/HB 1094) which will create a Johns Hopkins Police Department. BUILD’s official, public support of this proposed act came as a result of difficult and intentional conversations and listening to community leaders who would be directly impacted by this new police entity; and a meeting of BUILD leaders with President Daniels last week, to raise remaining concerns with the proposed act, that President Daniels satisfactorily addressed. “During this present time, while the Baltimore City Police Department is struggling to maintain numbers, root out corruption, and acclimate to shifting leadership, BUILD believes the proposed Johns Hopkins Police Department is a way to bring a new model of policing to Baltimore City, one that is grounded in the idea of accountable policing and that can serve as an example to the rest of the city—perhaps the state and the nation—of what policing should look like.” (For BUILD’s full statement of support, click HERE.)
What was apparent to me throughout the evening was the genuine respect, warmth and camaraderie between President Daniels and BUILD leaders, and our ongoing commitment to working side-by-side to build a city that is safe with living wage jobs, affordable housing and good schools for all our residents.
My takeaway from Tuesday? We all need each other to succeed. We need Acting Police Commissioner Harrison to succeed in his task of leading the reform of our city’s police department, and he needs us and BUILD to succeed. We need President Ron Daniels and Hopkins to succeed in their goal of creating a model police force based on accountable, constitutional, community-based policing as a model for our city’s own police department, and he and Hopkins need us and BUILD to succeed. Together, and with God’s grace, I believe we can and we will.