A while back, I posted a critical piece about a cop who suppported LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, but did so from the shadows. This gave rise to some heated debate, which went down a road that struck me as unfortunate as it served to emphasize the differences between the positions of police and criminal defense lawyers rather than our areas of agreement and support.
I invited LEAP’s executive director, Neill Franklin, to write a guest post. While there are difference in our respective views of the world, and more importantly criminal law, there is no other organization in this nation with whom we share as much. It’s important that we remember this, and work toward a closer and better understanding of each other. My appreciation to Neill for writing this post, and for taking the time to speak to the concerns of criminal defense lawyers and civilians.
I am a 34 year law enforcement veteran from Baltimore Maryland and the current director of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). LEAP is an organization of cops, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and federal agents who want to end the prohibition of drugs. We know first hand how these policies of prohibition have destroyed neighborhoods, communities and even countries. We also know how they have led to corruption, police misconduct and the “us vs. them” culture (cops vs. citizens).
But, before I go further, I wish to begin this guest post by thanking Scott for allowing me to do so; for giving me the opportunity to clear the air a bit. Most of us, cops, defense attorneys, prosecutors and average citizens, want the same things for our communities (less crime, fair laws, just courts and good cops), but sometimes we see things from different perspectives. I believe this has much to do with how we agree or disagree in acquiring what we want.
As I have read some of the prior blogs and comments where the words between cops and others were flying like a swarm of angry hornets, I tried to figure out why? What information was missing from the conversation allowing for such differences in opinion, or perceived differences? I thought, there is no way we can be this far apart on an issue.
One observation made was the failure to make an honest attempt to see things from the other’s position, or the failure to communicate enough in order to illuminate your perspective. At times, all of us, tend to jump right into a discussion without taking a breath or two. You know, there’s something to that old saying, “count to ten, then count again” before you act. In this case, step away from the keyboard for a minute before you press “send.” Fix a late night snack or take the dog out for a walk.
Now to the main reason for me writing this post. I want to let folks know that the members of LEAP, like many cops, are greatly concerned about the injustices inflicted upon society by bad cops. We at LEAP speak more so to the injustices directly attributed to the drug war than we do for general misconduct. This doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned about other acts of misconduct, it’s just where we tend to focus. Some examples are SWAT dynamic entries in the name of drug enforcement. They are dangerous, frightening and many times deadly. Family pets become common victims along with the occasional home owner or child and some of these occur within the wrong homes.
You can probably recall the Hyattsville Maryland Mayor who had his two dogs killed during a botched dynamic entry, or the little girl shot on the head and killed as she slept on the couch during another raid. On another note, just last week a NYC teen was shot and killed over a bag of weed in a state where there is a marijuana decriminalization law in effect. Cops enter the locked home without a search warrant after following the teen who they SUSPECT as buying or selling weed – no stated probable cause. An officer finds the teen in the upstairs bathroom and somehow manages to shoot and kill him. Next they hold the grandmother at the police station questioning her for over six hours with no attorney. There’s much more, but you get the picture.
We at LEAP do not condone this type of behavior and we denounce it. If you read our mission statement you will see this at the end, “… and restore the public’s respect and trust in law enforcement.” One of the main reasons for us doing this work is to bring law enforcement and community together again. The drug war is responsible for much of the friction between cops and citizens today. We’ve occupied communities because of the drug trade, we search people, their cars and homes on a regular basis, many times violating 4th amendment rights. We seize property and money from people, many times without even charging them with a crime. There are bad cops around every corner and we are deeply concerned. We want better for our communities and the citizens we serve and we fight for it.
I, for one, would like to see the citizens become more involved in denouncing unprofessional police conduct. I would like to see citizens band together and apply pressure to their local and state governments for improved police conduct. From cursing to brutality and sometimes murder, communities need to stand up for respect and just treatment. If there is anyone within a community who should be about peace and calm, it is that neighborhood cop. They should be that shining example of how citizens should treat each other. Maybe we need to revert back to the title of peace officer for our cops?
So the next time we meet on a blog and begin to post our comments, take moment to understand where folks may be coming from and if you are uncertain, ask for clarification. I think you may be surprised at what we can learn through civil discussion where we can agree to disagree. And I assure you this; we’re closer together on most topics than we realize.