TRANSFORMING PUBLIC SAFETY
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 Baltimore, lives continue to be destroyed, 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.
JUFJ has been working with partners on transforming public safety since 2015, in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County. In this moment of national outrage and uprising due to racist police violence, we are more called than ever to truly transform public safety in our region. Decades of work to reform police departments has proven ineffective. We must couple reform with a transition away from a reliance on police to an investment in Black communities and development of alternatives to policing.
According to the 2021 Report from the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services, Baltimore County has among the worst records in the State for civilian deaths involving a law enforcement officer. This spring, we have an opportunity to fix this. We are working with our Baltimore County Coalition for Police Accountability partners to advocate for a robust Police Accountability Board that will provide the accountability and transparency that residents deserve, and that residents have been denied for far too long. Join us to ensure that the PAB process is community-centered, and that the County ends up with a PAB that strengthens accountability. Click the button below to learn more and take action.
In 2021, we organized with Organizing Black and our other partners from the Campaign for Justice, Safety and Jobs to pass Baltimore City’s Ballot Question F, which authorized members of the City Council – not just the Mayor – to reallocate budget funds. This ballot question successfully passed, meaning that in 2023 and beyond our advocacy on the city budget has a greater chance of including reinvestment in crucial services such as housing, education, and community safety.
This spring, we are turning to the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. The preliminary budget released by Mayor Scott included an increase of funding to the Police Department’s budget. This is unacceptable, and we continue to work with our partners for a more participatory budget process, and for a budget that invests in people, not in policing them. Join us to advocate for a more participatory budget and to organize for critical justice issues facing our city. Read the sections below to learn more and take action.
This spring, we are also moving towards establishing a Police Accountability Board (PAB). Our local coalition partners, the Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs, as well as our statewide partners, the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability, released this letter regarding the PAB. The letter calls on the City Council to incorporate amendments to widen participation on the PAB to include city residents regardless of immigration status or previous encounters with the criminal legal system, among other demands.
Baltimore City Budget Season: Fiscal Year 2023
Baltimore City goes through a budget process each year, with opportunities for community input in the spring. With the increased calls across the city, state and nation to defund police and reimagine public safety, advocating on the operating budget is critical. Working with partners and community leaders across Baltimore City, we can organize to invest in our communities and thereby make our communities safer for everyone. Read on to see how to get involved!
From the Bureau of the Budget and Management Research in Baltimore City: Every year, the City of Baltimore develops a budget for both the operating and capital budgets. The operating budget funds the daily business of the City, specifically covering programs, services, staff, and supplies. The capital budget funds physical infrastructure projects, specifically major renovations and replacements that are long-term investments. While the Department of Finance submits to total budget to the Board of Estimates for review, the Bureau of Budget and Management Research (BBMR) oversees the operating budget planning process and the Department of Planning oversees the capital budget planning process. Learn more about the capital budget by clicking here.
We have ongoing local events, including local team meetings. Click here for a full list.
Tell Baltimore City to invest in our communities, not in our police department!
Right now, our Baltimore City elected officials are reviewing Mayor Scott’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023. But, the proposed budget fails to provide what community members have been asking for year after year – it gives too much money to police and not enough money to life-saving resources that police can’t address.
- BUDGET PUBLICATIONS: https://bbmr.baltimorecity.gov/budget-publications
- Fiscal Year 2022 Preliminary Budget: https://bbmr.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/fy22_prelim_FINAL_web.pdf
- 2021 Board of Estimates’ Taxypayers’ Night recording: https://www.charmtvbaltimore.com/video/board-estimates-2021-virtual-taxpayers-night-april-21-2021
- 2022 Board of Estimates’ Taxpayers’ Night recording: https://www.charmtvbaltimore.com/video/board-estimates-meeting-boe-taxpayers-night-april-27-2022
- Campaign for Justice, Safety & Jobs 1-pager: CJSJ Defund Police 1-Pager
- Center for Popular Democracy & Communities United: Defund2Refund FY2022 Budget Analysis
- Campaign for Justice, Safety & Jobs “This is Why We Say Defund” recording:
How To Submit Testimony
Did you submit testimony for the City Council’s Taxpayers’ Night? Let us know – email email@example.com
TESTIMONY BEST PRACTICES
- Your goal is to advocate effectively as a constituent & city resident aligned with particular groups and sets of viewpoints. You don’t have to be an expert!
- Appeal to emotion with personal stories when possible
- An emotional story “sticks” with the reader more than facts and figures
- The everyday experience of a constituent is where your authority really lies
- If you don’t have a personal story, talk about your values/why you care about this issue. Make it thoughtful.
- Be concise: one page of single-spaced text is about 3-5 minutes when read aloud relatively quickly. You will only have two minutes!
- Be precise: pick one to three arguments and make those well
- If you are providing oral testimony, practice it out loud!
- For both written and oral, you should address your testimony to the Board of Estimates.
- You should then introduce yourself with your name and what city district you live in.
- Then, state clearly why you are here: I am testifying in support of decreasing police department funding and reinvesting that money in our communities.
- Then, briefly, explain why. End with a reiteration of why you are here.
How to Attend a Virtual Hearing on Webex
ACTION TO BE TAKEN
For Baltimore City residents:
Charter Amendment 19-0379 has been signed by Mayor Young and approved by the Board of Estimates, so that it will now appear on the November ballot. This Charter Amendment will grant City Council the authority to reallocate funds in the budget, not just make cuts. Stay tuned for ways to take action!
To read more about what a Charter Amendment is and what it would do, click here.
For Baltimore County residents:
Councilman Julian Jones, in coordination with the County Executive, introduced a bill that would hold Baltimore County police accountable to the community, restrict use of force, and to make sure that officers who do the right thing are protected from retaliation. Unfortunately, this bill was extremely watered down and did not shift the balance of power away from police into the hands of the community.
JUFJ supported the bill only with the following amendments:
- Extend whistleblower protections
- Require that the Chief of police publicly presents an annual public report before the County Council
- Specify that trained civilians will be appointed as voting members on BCoPD disciplinary hearing boards
Unfortunately, the Baltimore County Council passed this bill WITHOUT the strengthening amendments. Click here to see the final bill language. Check back later for further actions to take for accountable policing in Baltimore County.
We’re making calls in Baltimore County for police accountability. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to pitch in.
Stay tuned for upcoming events.
Click the button to see the entire councils contact information.
November 29 | 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Jewish tradition teaches that only when our bodies are safe from harm can we nurture and sustain our souls. Allowing police to harm our friends, family, and neighbors is a choice we don’t need to keep making. Join JUFJ and our partners at a Baltimore City Council hearing on legislation to help res…
December 5 | 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
All of us deserve a life with dignity, respect, and safety. But here in Montgomery County, Black and brown children in public schools are scapegoated as criminals rather than nurtured. Jewish tradition teaches that the Divine encompasses both justice and mercy — every child should have the chance …