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 (SB285):
    • During the 2021 legislative session, the General Assembly passed historic police reforms, including mandating a Police Accountability Board (PAB) in each local jurisdiction. 
    • While a step in the right direction, PABs lack independent investigatory and subpoena powers, meaning they can neither appropriately assess complaints and their outcomes, nor issue subpoenas to draw accurate conclusions. This leaves them reliant on internal investigations done by the very police department they are supposed to be holding accountable
    • However, clarification is needed to ensure local jurisdictions have the ability to grant PABs the power to conduct their own independent investigations into officer misconduct. 
    • This bill is sponsored by Senator Jill Carter.
  • Reduce Unnecessary Police Interactions – Ban Odor Searches (SB51/HB1071):
    • 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 partially legalized substance adds further danger to these stops.
    • Reasonable DUI exemptions are included in the legislation.
    • Banning odor searches would reduce unnecessary, harmful interactions with the police and eliminate a gateway to the unjust criminalization of Black and brown people.
    • This bill is sponsored by Senator Jill Carter and Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield.
  • Local Control for Baltimore City Police Department (SB758/HB853):
    • For 10+ years, advocates have been working to give City Council legislative oversight of the BPD.
    • In 2021, the General Assembly passed legislation to reestablish BPD as a City agency provided that Baltimore residents ratify an amendment to the City Charter. In November 2022, 82% of voters voted to do just that. As of January 1, 2023, Baltimore City’s police department is a City agency; however, City Council is still powerless to legislate much-needed reforms to the BPD.
    • Further delay is unjust, as it limits self-governance and police accountability in a majority-Black city. The General Assembly must make one more change to the City Charter to enable local control. 
    • Mayor Brandon Scott is pushing for an amendment that would curtail City Council’s legislative oversight of the BPD; legislation must be passed without weakening amendments.
    • This bill is sponsored by Senator Jill Carter and Delegate Stephanie Smith.

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 additional legislative positions, click here.

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

  • Baltimore Community Building & Education Team Meeting

    March 28 | 7:00 pm8:30 pm

    Join us on Zoom for our Baltimore Community Building & Education Team meeting to help make our community convenings, educational programs, and other events as meaningful and effective as they can be!

  • Maryland Community Meeting

    March 29 | 7:30 pm9:30 pm

    Join us for our next Maryland Community Meeting where we’ll discuss campaign updates and how we can best move our work forward. All are welcome!

  • Baltimore Action Meeting: Direct Action Training

    April 3 | 6:30 pm8:30 pm

    Join us in person for our second-ever Baltimore Action Meeting, held by the Baltimore Action Team in collaboration with the Community Building & Education Team!

Campaign Organizers