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by Peter Moskos

September 30, 2010

Prop 19

Here's Neill Franklin, executive director of LEAP. He's also my former commanding officer, friend (though not when he was my former commander), and co-author.


Anonymous said...

Great work by Mr. Franklin! And keep up the hard work, Peter. I hope that critical analysis of the role of police, particularly where it concerns drug prohibition, becomes more common very soon.

The coverage of high profile police-involved shootings, bad raids, corruption and other malfeasance is really damaging the reputation of U.S. policing today. And the ill informed rhetoric of police unions and apologists for militaristic policing only adds fuel to the fire.

If we lived in a society that had a more sensible approach to drugs, and a healthier law enforcement culture, I'm fairly certain that I would currently be serving as a police officer now. If men of conscience like Franklin and Prof. Moskos were held up as great officers instead of radicals, I would be a police officer now. As it is, I have been an on again off again applicant for criminal justice jobs for about ten years now. I work in the private sector (healthcare security), where I never feel like I need to bust someone for weed, shoot a dog or prone a kid out and rifle through his pockets because he might be holding.

If I decide not to go into policing, it will not be because I gave up on the field or because I am "soft on crime." It will be because American police agencies have turned their back on me and on many other citizens who believe there is a better way to police this "free" society.

Dave H., IL

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,
What would your plan for legalizing drugs be?

Anonymous said...


I don't have a precise blueprint or a bill ready to go, but here are some ideas:

--Treat Marijuana and Hashish just as we now treat alcohol and tobacco. Retail outlets would not be allowed to sell to minors (The definiton of minor may differ between states. I believe that people 18 years and older should be able to possess and use alcohol, tobacco, cannibas and other drugs, as they are generally treated as "adults" in the U.S.).

--Honestly, I am not sure about psychedelics. Psylocibin (mushrooms) and Peyote may also be sold like alcohol and tobacco, but let's let science be our guide on that one. LSD and MDMA (Ecstasy) should probably be sold in a pharmacy. Behind the counter, to be exact.

--Street narcotics (ie. Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine, etc.) should only be available for purchase after receiving it from a pharmacist. First time buyers should receive health and safety information from the pharmacy and sign a waiver form ("I promise not to sue because this is my choice", etc.). After that intial purchase, they will be in the pharmacy's database as a purchaser of a particular narcotic, so it is all on the consumer after that.

--No matter how we decide to arrange the legal selling of drugs, ALL drugs should be available for medical purposes and/or research.

These are just a few rough ideas. Please provide feedback...

Dave H.- IL

DJK said...

That'd be a good start, Dave H.

That's the thing....we need to start somewhere. We need to go back to 1937 and stick our foot in the door. We need to fire up the furnace of the "legal mess" that Prop 19 is supposed to cause (as told by it's opponents) so that we can finally hear why the government thinks MJ is such a bad thing. Maybe they can explain the two sentences that were said in congress when they banned the maryjewanna. ugh. I could go on and on and on.

We need to start somewhere.

Unknown said...

He spent his career working narcotics, cashes the retirement checks, and now wants to come forward against drug enforcement? That doesn't say much for his character.
Maybe his point of view is valid in large urban Eastern cities, but it holds no water for rural areas and smaller cities, especially where I police on the West coast.

How much does the new job with LEAP pay Mr. Franklin?

Why is it all of the "cops" in LEAP are old, retired, and far removed from any real police work? I cannot take him or any of the other relics working the LEAP circuit seriously...

PCM said...

Why are LEAP members general former cops? Why do you think?

We're generally retired (personally, I didn't police long enough to retire) because you can get fired for saying for supporting LEAP! Duh... we're not stupid.

Relics, hardly? Out of touch? Sure, chief. I can't vouch for everybody, but both Franklin and I joined LEAP within months of working the streets. You think you're going to know less when you retire than you know now? If so, you're way to cocky (and possibly retarded).

I hope Franklin makes something for all his hard work, but LEAP is not exactly rolling in dough. You can think what you want of LEAP, but I can personally vouch for Franklin's character.

Members of LEAP generally volunteer their time. I speak a few times a year at most. Sometimes I make a little "honorarium," a hundred bucks here and there. I've spoken plenty of times for free (at least if it's near where I live).

For Neill it's a full-time job. I hope he's paid. But I can assure you he's not in it for the money.

Look, why do you care what we think? What if we supported regulated prostitution. WOuld that bother you? Nobody in LEAP advocates violating the law. We advocate a change in the law. Why is that so threatening to you? Or somehow so unbecoming of police officers.

And I assume by small cities out west you're talking about meth.

That whole damn drug is a result of the war on drugs. Why? People want to get high. You ever wonder why meth was invented in the US? Because for a brief moment soon after meth was invented, it was legal.

But now meth is here. And it's an ugly drug. You really think we can ban it out of existence. You tell me... how many more years of prohibition do we need before we win the war against meth?

You think we're going to win on the war on drugs? You think our current strategy is the best possible approach? I doubt it. So what's wrong with wanting something better?

Why not regulate and control and tax the hell out of it. You got a better idea? I'm all ears.

DJK said...

+3 for PCM
-1 Brett Badass.

Unknown said...

Brett, first, after 33 plus years, I earned my retirement check which becomes smaller every day in this disastrous economy. And as for what LEAP pays, try less than half of what I made before resigning to lead this noble dedicated organization. I could have continued working for the great state of MD for another 10 years, receiving additional pay increases and promotions, but there comes a time when you choose for the greater cause. I understand humility and sacrifice more than most, so I caution you about condemning people before you know the facts.

That said, I understand where you sit and I know some of the thoughts that you must have surrounding this difficult issue. I know because I was there. You are correct, I spent the majority of my career putting folks in prison for drug offenses, most were non-violent. But every year since 1995, since hearing Mayor Schmoke question our policies, I've been critically thinking about our policies. Then in 2000, when my friend, Ed Toatley was assassinated in DC, I knew something was wrong with our approach.

I became a member of LEAP in 2002 and began speaking for LEAP in 2008, all while still employed as a law enforcer and on the streets.

One last piece of advice, for I too learned the hard way. Research, ask questions and learn before you write or speak. You may not agree with me regarding this topic, but you cannot say that I don't know what I am talking about. As a cop, I've worked this issue from every perspective--from the streets, through command, to planning, task forces, finance, urban areas and rural. I've worked with those addicted and mothers who have lost sons to drug overdoses. I've lived in the streets as a child in communities flooded with drugs and I knew the kingpins of that day. Believe me, there is more, I have done my research--I know what I am talking about. I definitely look before I leap... no pun intended.

As PCM said, our job as law enforcers is to enforce the laws of the land--to uphold the constitution of these United States. It does not mean you cannot strive to change the laws of the land and actually, we should. Who better to evaluate the effectiveness of a law than those who apply it? Continue to enforce it as an enforcer, but strive to change it as a citizen.

Brett, I truly wish you safety and all the best as you head out every day.

Unknown said...


I have 24 years on with various assignments from patrol, drugs, detectives, and command positions. I don't know a thing about the streets of Baltimore or NYC, and cannot tell you what works there. That's your area of expertise. On the flip side, you cannot know what works in my side of the states in small town USA. We don't have street sales or prostitutes sitting on corners. We have a meth, marijuana, and heroin problem, but we keep our heads above water. Drugs are an issue, but not our primary focus. Our focus is on what my community has identified as their priorities and that is various livability issues, including but not limited to drugs.

Just like politics, policing is local as well. If we are to believe in Sir Robert Peel's CP principles, then the community decides what are priorities should be, not us. Last year, the West coast community as a whole threw the brakes on the legalization effort through various referendums.

Why do I care what you think? I care that your organization latches on to your law enforcement experience, and the drug culture holds you up saying "Look what law enforcement thinks." You don't speak for me, but some people think you do in the way its presented.

I'm sorry about your friend lost in the line of duty. That is truly tragic. Thanks for your response.


Unknown said...


The tax and regulate it argument is simplistic at best. Perhaps you can quote some Euro studies to back that position, but we aren't in Europe. Its a social experiment at best, and I'm not willing to sacrifice a generation of my children to try it out.

On the topic of old retired cops having lost the perspective. I stand by that. Case law, tactics, economic changes, crime trends, they all change the way we police in real time.

Step away for 18 months, and your behind the curve. I enjoy hearing historical perspectives, but if I want good information on current policing trends and tactics, I'm not looking to a command officer or a professor for that information. I talk to street cops. They have the pulse while we have a historical perspective. We can start every sentence with, "Remember when..." Policing is real time.


PCM said...

And I appreciate you commenting here.

But you still haven't answered the basic question: What's the answer?

A few more years of the war on drugs? Or 10 more years? Or another century?

When will it end? Quite frankly I'm afraid you lack the historical perspective.

Are drugs just something that we have to fight constantly, else we all become junkies? Seriously. If drugs were legalized, would you shoot up?

Is there every a point when you'd be willing to consider that perhaps police do not have the answer to drug addiction. And perhaps that prohibition violence could be ended simply by legal regulation? To me, that's really what it all comes down to. Why is this different than alcohol prohibition?

Have you been to the Netherlands (I have) or Portugal (I haven't). Why be so dismissive. Does American exceptionalism really mean we can't learn for other places bold enough to try something else?

As to LEAP representing law enforcement... I don't really think anybody mistakes LEAP for the opinion of the average cop.

But certainly we are the opinion of some cops. And that's an important part of the battle. If nothing else it's forces people to debate the issues (as you do, even if you started a bit ad hominem) rather than attack long-haired hippy stoners.

Unknown said...

I will focus on community involvement and the "broken window" theory. To a neighborhood with a flop house 8 ball dealer, making that case might make all of the difference. Not a sexy case, but one that has huge impact on that neighborhood's livability. The community involvement is key. Once they stop calling for fear or because they don't think you care, you've lost the upper hand.

I spent three years in Germany, a few months in the Middle East, and have visited some other Euro locations. Guilty as charged believing this is the best country in the world with some faults, but not culturally similar to anything else in the world.

PCM said...

We agree about Broken Windows.
I'm not opposed to drug enforcement as a quality of life campaign. Not at all.

Drug are illegal. Police shouldn't ignore crime.

Let me compare it to prostitution. I'm not pro-whore. I think street walkers need to be locked up. I also think it's futile. I think prostitution should be regulated and controlled (like red-light districts in Amsterdam). Then you might actually get rid of street walkers.

You close down a flog-house drug house, great! Particularly if you can do it before it burns down. That is winning the battle. But there will be another.

To win the war we have to allow for the fact that we're going to have drugs and we're going to have addicts (though we could have far fewer of both of them).

I think too many people think LEAP supports some strange drug free-for-all. Quite the opposite. We want to control drugs. To regulate drugs. But we're not under the illusion that you can eliminate drugs. Right now drugs prohibited drugs are uncontrolled.

A better model is cigarettes: legal, taxed, regulated, and declining in use. What could be better?