TRANSFORMING PUBLIC SAFETY

Put judges and officers for yourself in all your cities that your God is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteousness. You shall not subvert justice; you shall not show favoritism…justice, justice shall you pursue…

– Deuteronomy 16:18-20

Law enforcement should serve and protect everyone, but Black and brown Marylanders are facing systemic violence and over-policing every day. Jewish tradition teaches us that destroying one life is akin to destroying the entire world. Police violence has destroyed so many worlds in our state, and Maryland laws prevent the public from even finding out about officers’ mistreatment of people. We must be able to hold police accountable to the people and communities they hurt.

The People: People hurt by police, particularly Black and Brown individuals, immigrants, LGBTQI+ people, and those experiencing mental health crises.

The Legislation: Under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) disciplinary records of police may not be released, which prevents effective accountability and discipline for police officers.

  • Remove legal barriers that prevent public access to records of police misconduct.
  • Ensure public participation in holding police officers accountable for abuse and brutality.
  • Bill sponsors: Delegate Luke Clippinger (Baltimore City) and Senator Jill Carter (Baltimore City)

Key Partners: ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, CASA, Campaign for Justice Safety and Jobs (Baltimore), Silver Spring Justice Coalition (Montgomery County)Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle

Maryland State

“Anyone who destroys a life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world.”

— Midrash Sanhedrin 4:5

The concept of tzelem elohim — the idea that all people are created in the Divine image and therefore are equally precious and worthy — is central to Judaism. It is so central that our sacred texts declare that destroying even one life is akin to destroying a whole world. Unfortunately, we know that in Maryland, lives are destroyed every day, especially Black and brown lives, by our system of policing. And despite historic police accountability reforms passed by the Maryland General Assembly two years ago, community oversight of the police needs to be strengthened. Judaism’s ethic of mutual care calls us to reduce unnecessary police interactions, boldly rethink policing, and transform public safety in our region.

Who’s Impacted:

  • People harmed by the police, especially Black and brown Marylanders, and also immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and those experiencing mental health crises.

Key Committees:

  • Senate Judicial Proceedings (JPR), Chair: Will Smith (Montgomery County)
  • House Judiciary (JUD), Chair: Luke Clippinger (Baltimore City)

Legislative Details:

  • Independent Investigative Powers for Police Accountability Boards:
    • During the 2021 legislative session, the General Assembly passed historic police reforms, including mandating a Police Accountability Board (PAB) in each local jurisdiction. 
    • Allowing local jurisdictions to grant PABs the authority to hire independent investigators and investigate misconduct complaints will expand their ability to provide community oversight of police.
  • Reduce Unnecessary Police Interactions – Ban Odor Searches:
    • While police are required to obtain a search warrant before conducting a search, the smell of cannabis is used as an exception to this constitutional right. Within the last few years, officers in several states were found to have lied about smelling cannabis, which is legal in Maryland, before conducting a search.
    • In Maryland, Black drivers are more likely to be stopped and searched by police. For incidents involving Black drivers, probable cause (including the odor of cannabis) was used to justify 67% of searches, compared to 46% of incidents involving white drivers.
    • Traffic stops disproportionately injure and kill drivers of color. Pulling drivers out of their car because of the lingering odor of a legal substance adds further danger to these stops.
    • Banning odor searches would reduce unnecessary, harmful interactions with the police and eliminate a gateway to the unjust criminalization of Black and brown people.

Key Partners: Maryland Coalition for Justice & Police Accountability, including: ACLU of Maryland, CASA, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, NAACP, PG ChangeMakers, Young People for Progress, and Silver Spring Justice Coalition

As we build on our organizing and advocacy from the past few years, JUFJ prioritizes deepening relationships with existing partners and coalitions and honoring the commitments we have made in past years.

To maximize our effectiveness, we engage in a full scope of work on a limited number of campaigns, and impact other campaigns in a more limited way by submitting official JUFJ testimony and/or signing JUFJ’s name to a list of supporters. For more information about our agenda setting process for the Maryland 2023 state legislative session, click here.

Additional Legislative Positions:

In addition to JUFJ’s key legislative priorities, we support and will provide testimony on the following bills:

  • Allow Montgomery County to move automated traffic enforcement from the Police Department to Department of Transportation (HB231) – This local priority must to be passed at the state level.
  • Body Worn Cameras (HB429) – Clarify and strengthen legislation passed last year and add requirements for plainclothes officers to also wear cameras.
  • Repeal Disruption of School as a Crime (HB84/SB119) – Disruption of school is a crime punishable by a fine up to $2,500 or imprisonment up to 6 months. This criminalizes normal childhood behavior.
  • Reportable Offenses Statute (HB146) – End the current practice where students who commit or are accused of a crime outside of school can be reported to their school, and suspended or expelled.
  • MD988 Fund campaign (HB293/SB241)- Create a mental health and substance abuse crisis response hotline.

We oppose SB31, which would interfere with police transparency, HB613, which would increase funding for school resource officers rather than mental health supports, and SB652, which would enact mandatory minimums.

Related Events

  • MD Public Safety Hearing: Support SB51

    February 2 | 1:00 pm5:00 pm

    Jewish sacred texts declare that destroying even one life is akin to destroying a whole world. Unfortunately, we know that in Maryland, lives are destroyed every day, especially Black and brown lives, by our system of policing. Join us at the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee hearing for SB51, w…

  • Baltimore Action Meeting: Power of Protest

    February 6 | 7:00 pm8:30 pm

    Join the Baltimore Action Team for our first opportunity to connect in person in 2023! We’re experiencing the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s Power of Protest exhibit for our kick-off Baltimore Action Meeting.

  • Montgomery County Racial Equity and Policing Team Meeting

    February 7 | 7:00 pm8:30 pm

    Join us for our next Racial Equity and Policing Team meeting to get updates about current campaigns and take action together. Everyone is welcome!

  • Purim Action in Annapolis (and more!)

    March 2 | 9:00 am3:00 pm

    Every year on (or near) Purim, JUFJ activists deliver mishloach manot, sweet gifts to our legislators, along with a reminder of our legislative priorities.

Campaign Organizers