Sponsored by the Hopkins in Law Affinity
Tune in on Tuesday, August 25 at Noon EDT.
As the United States examines the ways in which existing criminal justice and policing policies at the local, state, and federal levels affect Black Americans and communities of color, many of us are left wondering about the role of our legislators. Following nearly a week of civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman William C. Smith, Jr. initiated legislation to address officer training, use of force, militarization, prosecutorial intervention, liability caps, the disclosure of personnel records, and The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. During this hour, engage with our panelists as they discuss Sen. Smith’s proposed legislation and the impact of George Floyd’s death as it relates to police, policy, and politics in Maryland and beyond.
MEET OUR PANELISTS
The Honorable Senator William C. Smith, Jr. (A&S '06), Chair, Judicial Proceedings Committee
William C. Smith Jr. was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. His parents were young adults during the height of the civil rights movement. It was their struggle and sacrifice that opened doors of opportunity for Will. His parents taught him the importance of a good education and showed him the benefit of living in a caring, engaged community. With the support of his family, Will became a first-generation college student when he attended and graduated from the College of William and Mary. He would go on to earn a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from William and Mary.
After college, Will enrolled in AmeriCorps where he worked as a community engagement leader for IMPACT Silver Spring and worked at the ACLU as a Legislative Assistant. During law school Will worked at a law firm handling employment discrimination cases and sought a commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, a position in which Will continues to serve in today. (Read Will’s full military biography here.)
In 2010, Will received a White House appointment to serve as a Director at the Department of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama.
In 2014, Will was elected to represent District 20 in the Maryland House of Delegates. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Will served on the criminal justice and family law subcommittee. Along with these roles, Will was a member of several key workgroups including Justice Reinvestment, Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and Death with Dignity.
In 2016, Will was appointed to represent District 20 in the Maryland State Senate, making him the first African-American Senator from Montgomery County. In the Senate, Will has worked to forge relationships with his colleagues from across the state and political spectrum which has allowed him to become an effective legislator in Annapolis.
In 2019, Will became the 50th Chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. He is the first African American to hold that post. As Chairman, Will has championed robust criminal justice reform measures and has led efforts to provide economic and educational opportunities for all Marylanders.
Today, Will continues to practice law, his practice focuses on national security and employment discrimination. Will lives in Silver Spring with his wife, Camille, daughter, Jacqueline, and dog, Monty.
The Honorable Senator Charles E. Sydnor III (A&S '96), Member, Judicial Proceedings Committee
Senator Charles E. Sydnor III was born and raised in Baltimore City, Maryland and is a resident of Ellicott Mills. Charles is employed as an Assistant General Counsel with the Columbia, Maryland based affordable housing organization, Enterprise Community Investment, Inc.
In addition to his work at Enterprise, Charles was sworn into the Maryland Senate on January 8, 2020 to represent District 44, which includes communities in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County, and serves on the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Additionally, Charles was appointed to Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Biotechnology, the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness, and the Law Enforcement Body Camera Task Force.
Prior to his time in the Senate, Charles served in Maryland’s House of Delegate, where he served on the House Judiciary Committee chairing both the Civil Law and Procedures subcommittee and the Criminal Law and Procedures subcommittee during his tenure. During his first term in office, Charles successfully introduced legislation for police departments to adopt body cameras and has worked on legislation to regulate the use of certain surveillance devices by law enforcement agencies.
Charles matriculated at and received his Juris Doctor and Masters of Policy Sciences from the University of Maryland School of Law and University of Maryland Baltimore County, respectively. Charles also matriculated and received his Bachelor’s degree with honors from Johns Hopkins University and his A-course diploma from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Charles is admitted to practice before Maryland and District of Columbia courts and the United States Supreme Court.
Charles is a recipient of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Black Law Student Association’s Graduate of the Year Award (2020), Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition’s Most Promising Legislator Award (2017), Daily Record’s Leadership in Law Award (2012), the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law’s Public Service Award (2000) and Johns Hopkins University’s Student Excellence Award for Leadership and Service Award (1996).
Ganesha Martin, Esq., President, G.M.M. Consulting, LLC
Ganesha Martin, Esq. is a change agent working at the intersection of diversity, law, and police reform. Passionate about creating safe spaces for suppressed voices, she works to improve the culture of policing in our country’s most divided cities.
Martin began her legal career as a litigator but her work with Baltimore police would be where her legal acumen, strategic and diplomatic communication, and advocacy sensibilities would converge. While there, Freddie Gray’s death thrust the city and its police department into the national spotlight.
After the death of Freddie Gray, Martin shifted her focus to improving the culture of policing in Baltimore, making community and police reconciliation her priority. She led the effort to adopt a court-ordered federal Consent Decree and set the Baltimore Police Department up to successfully come into compliance. She was part of the Baltimore Police Department’s negotiations and implementation teams for structural reforms focusing on how police interact with youth, use of force, stop and frisk, de-escalation, body-worn cameras, and interacting with the those suffering from mental and behavioral health crises.
Martin’s current work focuses squarely on uniting communities of color and the police who swear to serve and protect them. In addition to Baltimore, she has consulted on Consent Decree, compliance, and police reform matters for the Cleveland and Milwaukee Police Departments.
Never one to be intimidated by what others see as impossible, Martin is using her talent to move the needle on some of society’s most challenging social problems. Her ability to translate both sides of an issue, quickly overcome distrust, and move things forward help her get things done. Her commitment to using communication as a bridge to unite opposing groups, diffuse conflict and foster real human connection make her an invaluable asset to anyone seeking to bridge an insurmountable divide. But her fundamental belief in the universal human potential for rehabilitation and understanding pushes her towards her biggest goal to create practical pathways to progress.
Martin received her BA in Journalism and Asian Studies from Baylor University and her J.D. from Texas Tech University School of Law.
MEET OUR MODERATOR
Dr. Keshia Pollack Porter (Bloomberg '06), Associate Dean for Faculty, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Keshia M. Pollack Porter, PhD, MPH, is a Professor of Health Policy and Management and Associate Dean for Faculty. Her work uses injury epidemiology, health impact assessment (HIA), and mixed methods to advance policies that create safe, healthy, and equitable environments where people live, work, play, and travel. She focuses on identifying policy solutions that address social determinants of health, reduce disparities, and advance health equity. She regularly engages with policymakers to promote evidence-informed policy decisions and advance Health in All Policies (HiAP) at the local, state, and federal levels.
Dr. Pollack Porter received her BA in Sociology and Community Health from Tufts University, her MPH from Yale University, and her PhD from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.