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Next steps to inform local and national action on public safety


Dear Colleagues,

President Daniels, Dean Rothman and President Sowers last Friday announced a pause in the implementation of the Johns Hopkins Police Department for at least two years. The University will now re-engage staff, students, faculty, and neighbors in productive dialogue around alternative approaches to public safety.

At the School of Public Health, we must fully engage in this dialogue and bring the lens of public health and health equity to the debate with a vigorous focus on what we can do to address the root causes of violence, including racism. At the same time, we must offer our considerable expertise in the analysis of additional policies and practices beyond police reform that can be used to ensure public safety, such as approaches rooted in the principles of restorative justice. In doing so, we will rely on the evidence where it exists and seek to play a critical role in developing the evidence where it is absent.

Solutions to these complex issues are not easy or immediate, but we must start the conversation now. We must determine the most relevant and immediate steps we can take to direct our future efforts—for the benefit of our University, our community, and our nation.

For this reason, I have asked the Bloomberg American Health Initiative to work with our Center for Public Health Advocacy to initiate conversations with key School centers that are currently engaged in research, policy, and practice in areas relevant to the issues of public safety. These include, among others, the Urban Health Institute and the Institute for Health and Social Policy, and our centers for: Gun Policy and Research; Health Disparities Solutions; Adolescent Health; Health Equity; Prevention of Youth Violence; and Public Health and Human Rights.

I have requested that these centers take stock of their current work and ask what more they and the School can be doing to better inform the local and national debate on public safety. Specifically, I will ask how the School can provide the leadership needed at this time and what resources will be necessary to take actionable steps to advance our research, policy, and advocacy. A summary of their considerations will be presented to our community for open comment this summer. These deliberations will result in a roadmap for our collective efforts moving forward.

At the same time, Dean Joel Bolling, and SOURCE Directors, Mindi Levin and Tony Bridges are taking the lead to pull together the many thoughtful and concrete suggestions we have and continue to receive regarding the immediate and long-term actions the School can take to advance anti-racist policies and practices. These suggestions have arisen from multiple conversations taking place at all levels across the school. We plan to share the School’s next steps in the coming days.

In moving forward, we must remain committed to open and inclusive dialogue. Even as we surface different ideas for change, we are of one voice in condemning the recent murders of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, and many other Black people at the hands of police. We are of one voice in our commitment to combatting racism and its impact on health equity. We are of one voice in the need to fully realize this opportunity for progress.


Ellen MacKenzie Signature

Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins University