My name is Carol Stern from Chevy Chase and I am co-chair of the Equal Justice Under the Law Team of Jews United for Justice (JUFJ). JUFJ organizes nearly 6,000 Jewish Marylanders and allies in support of local campaigns for social, racial, and economic justice. I am providing this testimony in support of JPR 15, to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. I want to thank this committee for meeting before the Legislative Session and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The work of this committee is vital since substantive police reform is long overdue. We thank you for recognizing the urgent call of thousands of Marylanders, who have raised our voices in the streets asking for change to happen right now.
Jewish tradition teaches us that destroying one life is akin to destroying the entire world. In a world already filled with so much violence, we must move to end police violence and change Maryland laws that prevent us from holding police accountable.JUFJ has joined more than 80 other organizations across Maryland calling on the General Assembly to pass five specific and impactful reforms. One of these is the repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR).
Repeal of LEOBR is absolutely necessary to end the racist, corrupt, and inequitable policing that has been taking place in Maryland for far too long. LEOBR says police, unlike any other public employee, cannot be disciplined until they are found guilty in a mini-trial, no matter how clear the evidence, or how egregious the misconduct. Police should not have special rights that no other public employee has to avoid discipline. LEOBR also permits non-transparent self-investigations by police departments, creating a culture of impunity that is compounded by the fact that the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) denies the public access to critical information about police misconduct. For example, look at the 2018 police killing of a Silver Spring man, Robert White z”l, who was walking while Black, unarmed through his neighborhood. To this day, White’s community has never learned the details of the investigation, except that the officer still serves on the police force. It is unconscionable that a man has been killed by a public employee, and the public has no oversight over the person who killed him or the process for holding that person accountable.
Jewish tradition says that we are called to be partners in the creation of a more perfect world — in this time, that call is louder than ever. Repealing LEOBR is a step toward that more perfect world we must create together.
JUFJ urges a favorable report on SB JPR 15.