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)
“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 last year, community oversight of the police needs to be strengthened, especially in Baltimore City. Judaism’s ethic of mutual care calls us to boldly rethink policing and transform public safety in our region.
- People harmed by the police, especially Black and brown Marylanders, and also immigrants, members of the LGBTQIA community, and those experiencing mental health crises.
- Senate Judicial Proceedings (JPR), Chair: Will Smith (Montgomery County)
- House Judiciary (JUD), Chair: Luke Clippinger (Baltimore City)
- Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs (EHE), Chair: Paul Pinsky (Prince George’s)
- House Ways & Means (W&M), Chair: Vanessa Atterbeary (Howard County)
- Clarify Baltimore City Civilian Review Board Role (SB441/HB991)
- During the 2021 legislative session, the General Assembly passed historic police reforms, including mandating a Police Accountability Board (PAB) in each local jurisdiction. These PABs intend to provide some community oversight over local police departments.
- Baltimore City already has a Civilian Review Board (CRB), established in 1999 by the state, to provide greater accountability and oversight of policing.
- The CRB should serve as the PAB.
- This bill is sponsored by Senator Jill Carter and Delegate Stephanie Smith.
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.
Updates & Actions
May 25 | 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Join us and our partners for the City Council’s hearing on the creation of a Police Accountability Board!
May 25 | 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Join us and our Baltimore Coalition for Police Accountability partners to call for a transparent, independent, and community-centered Police Accountability Board!
May 26 | 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Join us for the City Council’s 2023 Taxpayers’ Night!
June 7 | 7:00 pm – 8:30 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!