Secret Service veteran tapped by Hopkins

February 08, 1994|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Sun Staff Writer

A 24-year veteran of the U.S. Secret Service has been named to direct security at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, ending a two-year search for an anti-crime "czar" to improve safety at the sprawling East Baltimore campus.

Joseph R. Coppola, 51, who served at the White House in the mid-1980s and more recently was special agent in charge at the Baltimore Field Office, will begin his new duties on Feb. 22.

He will oversee all aspects of security on the 44-acre campus, which includes the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health, and the Kennedy-Krieger Institute.

The appointment was announced yesterday by officials at the Hopkins medical institutions, though a spokeswoman said Mr. Coppola was selected about a month ago.

Crime has long been a concern on the campus. The search for a high-profile security chief began after several brazen and violent crimes, including the abduction of a physician, the rape of a medical student and the robbery of a professor at knifepoint in her office.

In the abduction, in February 1992, the doctor was robbed at gunpoint in a hospital garage, choked by his assailants and left for dead in the trunk of his car.

Such incidents led to an outcry for heightened security. Hopkins officials formed an ad hoc committee on safety which, among other things, recommended the creation of an overall security chief.

Last year, Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, announced plans to accept the Hopkins post. But two months later, after surgery to remove a blood clot from the surface of his brain, he said he would stay in his state position.

Yesterday, Mr. Coppola said he intended to "professionalize" the security force at Hopkins, making it a model for medical complexes.

"It's the No. 1 hospital, and we want it to have the No. 1 security force," he said.

Mr. Coppola said he has not learned enough about the security force to know what must be done to reduce crime at Hopkins.

"What awaits me is a tremendous learning experience," he said. "It's a lot for me to digest -- how the operation runs today and what the culture is, and then to bring in my past experience in security."

Colene Y. Daniel, Hopkins vice president for corporate services, said yesterday that officials will consider several options to upgrade the security force. One is to hire "protective service officers" -- people trained as city or state police officers who would work full time for the campus force.

The Hopkins security detail is composed of security officers, who have a lower level of training than police, and off-duty policemen.

Mr. Coppola, a resident of Millersville, was deputy special agent in charge of technical security at the White House from 1984 to 1985. During that period, he planned and managed security for President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George Bush and foreign heads of state.

More recently, he has served as special agent in charge at the Baltimore Field Office. In that capacity, he has directed security during visits to Maryland by high-level officials.

These include presidential visits to the Camp David retreat.

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