Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard, Jr. is leaving the department for Johns Hopkins University, where he will lead the school’s security department as its new vice president for public safety.
Bard will step into his new role at JHU beginning Aug. 30. According to spokesperson Jeremy C. Warnick, CPD Superintendents Leonard DiPietro and Christine Elow will lead the department until an acting police commissioner is chosen.
Bard announced his departure to employees at the Cambridge Police Department on Tuesday in an email later published on the City of Cambridge website.
Bard wrote he was “grateful” for the “lifetime relationships” he built at CPD and the department’s accomplishments during his four year tenure as commissioner.
“At a time when policing is under great scrutiny and faces immense pressure to reform and reimagine its future place in society, I can say with great confidence that the ‘Cambridge way’ represents what police departments should aspire to be,” he wrote.
JHU praised Bard in a press release, citing his “commitment to progressive approaches” in policing.
“Throughout his career, Dr. Bard has been a respected national voice on the need to ensure that policing is non-racialized, constitutional, and community-based,” JHU President Ronald J. Daniels, Johns Hopkins Medicine CEO Paul B. Rothman, and Johns Hopkins Health System President Kevin W. Sowers said in a press release Tuesday.
“During his time in Cambridge—a city with six colleges, including Harvard and MIT, and three hospitals within a 6.4-square-mile area—Bard has regularly encountered the issues and public safety challenges associated with campus environments and health care facilities,” the press release added.
In the press release, JHU credited Bard with establishing CPD’s “family and social justice” division, bringing in CPD’s first child psychologist providing mental health services to Cambridge youth, and retaining the department’s first recovery coach to help combat the opioid epidemic.
During his tenure at CPD, Bard also spearheaded departmental efforts to demilitarize, retiring camouflage uniforms and reducing the weapon inventory by 20 percent. He oversaw a project to develop a public dashboard that measures racial profiling and possible race-based interactions by police. The dashboard remains unfinished but is in the “final stages,” according to Bard’s May 2021 statement to the City Council’s Finance Committee.
CPD has also received backlash from some city officials and Cambridge residents at times under Bard’s leadership. In 2018, CPD arrested a Black Harvard College student during that year’s Yardfest, the College’s annual outdoor spring concert, sparking outrage from Harvard affiliates.
In 2020, Cambridge Police came under fire for inappropriate social media use by two officers, who later left the department, and for the release of an inventory report stating that the Cambridge Police Department possessed equipment including an armored vehicle, sniper rifles, 64 M4 assault rifles, and tear gas. Previously, Bard had said CPD did not receive military equipment. Bard clarified he meant the department “did not possess materials that are only restricted to the military by law.”
After mounting pressure, City Manager Louis A. DePasquale assembled a public safety task force in January, which aims to decrease Cambridge’s reliance on police responses.
—Staff writer Raquel Coronell Uribe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @raquelco15.