Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Kurt Schmoke, President of the University of Baltimore. Photo taken during a newsmaker interview. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz).

After mistrial, caution but not alarm at campuses, hospitals

Baltimore’s universities and hospitals say they kept a close watch on events following the declaration of a mistrial Wednesday in the case of police Officer William Porter but saw no need for concern about safety since demonstrations remained peaceful.

The rioting that erupted in the city in April was preceded by warnings from law enforcement about a credible safety threat prompted businesses and some institutions, such as the University of Maryland, Baltimore, to close early.

But no such warning came after the mistrial, said Alex Likowski, a spokesman for the university.

With five more officers set to stand trial over the coming months in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, as well as a possible retrial for Porter, the response to Wednesday’s announcement may offer a preview of what’s to come.

In anticipation of a verdict in the Porter case, University of Maryland, Baltimore President Jay A. Perman sent an email Wednesday urging members of the campus community to make sure they were getting campus safety alerts on their phones and to familiarize themselves with alternate routes to and from campus in the event of traffic disruptions.

“We always follow things like this very closely,” Likowski said, adding there ultimately was no reason for concern and no cancellations.

At the University of Baltimore, President — and former Baltimore mayor — Kurt L. Schmoke urged students on Monday to stay safe, to be civil and non-confrontational in the event of any unrest and to avoid any demonstrations that seem to have escalated.

On Thursday, a spokesman said the university was pleased with how police and residents responded and didn’t anticipate any need to change procedures for the remaining criminal trials.

“Given the exemplary behavior of Baltimore community leaders, peaceful [protesters] and the Baltimore Police Department following yesterday’s announcement, we do not foresee the need to modify our communications protocols,” spokesman Chris Hart said in an email.

Across town at Johns Hopkins University, where final exams are scheduled to wrap up Friday, many students had already left for the holidays when the mistrial announcement was made, said Dennis O’Shea, a university spokesman.

Hopkins officials, too, kept a close watch on the day’s events, but didn’t feel the need to issue any warnings or advisories, O’Shea said.

Coppin State University President Maria L. Thompson issued a statement to that school’s community Wednesday urging that the occasion “serve as an opportunity to engage our students in thoughtful discussion that positively impacts their education.”

Emergency management teams at local hospitals, including Mercy Medical Center, located just a few blocks from the courthouse, also monitored Wednesday’s events.

“There were no incidents and operations proceed as normal,” Mercy spokesman Dan Collins said in an email.