Thursday, October 30, 2014

Press Release: Law Enforcement Officials Tour States with Drug Policy Reform Measures on Ballot

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS WRAP UP TOUR OF STATES WITH DRUG POLICY REFORM INITIATIVES

Police Chiefs, Former Prosecutor, Officers Lend a Hand

LEAP Excellent Source for Midterm Results As They Come In

As the midterm election approaches, LEAP representatives are hard at work educating voters about the need for drug policy reform in states with relevant initiatives on the ballot. A pair of police chiefs, Retired Seattle Chief Norm Stamper and sitting Police Chief Larry Kirk are in Alaska, where voters are about to weigh in on an initiative to legalize, regulate and control marijuana (Measure 2). The two went to seven towns between them, from Anchorage to Kodiak, to educate voters on the public safety benefits of legalization. In the meantime, a former prosecutor and a retired lieutenant sheriff are doing a similar tour of Oregon (Measure 91) and a former police officer and former Customs agent are speaking to Florida voters about medical marijuana (Amendment 2). These tours have included meetings with civic clubs, conversations with the media and debates with opponents.

“Unfortunately, mid-term elections historically have low levels of turnout, so their results don’t reflect the will of the people as completely as votes in presidential years,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), LEAP’s executive director. “We hope that these initiatives, so vital to public safety, community relations and basic issues of fairness will change that – that we’ll see greater participation from both sides of the aisle and important changes in drug policy across the nation.”   

LEAP also supports Initiative 71 in Washington DC, which would allow residents to possess up to two ounces for marijuana for personal use and to grow up to six plants, and Prop. 47 in California, which would defelonize low-level nonviolent crimes such as drug possession. LEAP will be tweeting, updating our blog, and sending out press releases as results come in Tuesday.

“Marijuana legalization is vital to improving public safety,” says Police Chief Larry Kirk. “Under the current system, purchases are not age-restricted, all the profits go to criminals and thousands of people a year are being burdened with arrest records that will haunt them the rest of their lives. Speaking as someone who has never used marijuana, these states can do better.”



Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of police, prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs

Monday, September 22, 2014

Police Chief Joseph McNamara Who Fought to End The Drug War Dies at 79

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 22, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc or 415.823.5496


RETIRED SAN JOSE POLICE CHIEF WHO FOUGHT TO END THE DRUG WAR DIES AT 79

Joseph McNamara Leaves Behind a Remarkable Legacy of Public Service and Activism


MONTEREY, CA—Retired police chief Joseph McNamara passed away last Friday, September 19th at the age of 79. His thirty-five-year law enforcement career began in 1956 as a beat cop for the New York City Police Department. He would later become a criminal justice fellow at Harvard, where he focused on criminal justice research and methodology. During this time McNamara took leave from police work to obtain a doctorate in Public Administration, and was appointed deputy inspector of crime analysis in New York City upon his return.

McNamara spoke out publicly against the drug war long before the issue had come to the political forefront. He was a speaker and advisory board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. “When you’re telling cops that they’re soldiers in a Drug War, you’re destroying the whole concept of the citizen peace officer, a peace officer whose fundamental duty is to protect life and be a community servant,” said McNamara at a presentation for the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform in 1995.

“Chief Joe McNamara was one of the first people of position both to see the futility of our drug policy and have the courage to speak publicly about it,” said retired California Superior Court Judge James Gray, another LEAP speaker. “Without his contributions this movement would not be nearly as advanced as it is today.”

In 1973 he became the Kansas City police chief and is credited with leading the charge on groundbreaking and innovative programs and research. He hired more women and minorities, worked to bridge the racial divides for which Kansas City had been infamous, and promoted accountability within his department. He instituted record-keeping policies, updated technological capabilities, and spoke out against racial profiling. After three years McNamara was appointed police chief of San Jose, California where he remained until retirement in 1991. After retirement, he became a consultant for the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, and the State Department. He also authored five books including a crime-prevention text and three best-selling crime novels.

Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper remembers him fondly. “What I do remember,” said Stamper, “...was Joe’s graciousness, his humor, and his integrity. Over the years, he demonstrated the power of principle, of speaking one’s mind and heart, of advancing the causes of justice and equality.

Joseph McNamara is survived by his three children and his wife, Laurie.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a nonprofit organization of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Norm Stamper's Testimony to Senate, Global Commission on Drug Policy Calls for Legalized Regulation of Drugs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 9, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

RETIRED SEATTLE POLICE CHIEF CONNECTS FERGUSON TO DRUG WAR IN SENATE HEARINGS ON SAME DAY THE GLOBAL COMMISSION ON DRUG POLICY CALLS FOR END TO DRUG WAR

Police Chief at Time of WTO Protests’ Written Testimony to Senate Below
Panel of Dignitaries, Including Kofi Annan, George P. Shultz and Eight Former Heads of State Calls for Decriminalization Approach to Drugs

WASHINGTON DC–In the wake of tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri that focused the public’s attention on the increasing militarization of police, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is holding a hearing on police militarization today at 10:30am ET. Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, who oversaw and now regrets his role in the militaristic response to the Seattle WTO protests in 1999 has been in consultation with the Committee and has submitted written testimony which appears in its entirety below.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a group of dignitaries including former US Secretary of State George P. Shultz, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the former presidents or prime ministers of Brazil, Switzerland, Colombia, Chile, Portugal, Poland, Greece and Mexico and a long list of other top leaders are meeting this morning to release a new report calling for putting public health and safety first through the decriminalization of drug use and possession and the institution of legalized regulation of drug markets.

“The drug war is inextricably linked to most major issues of our time, from immigration to police militarization. It’s the cause of much of the violence on our streets and in communities worldwide. We are increasingly seeing smart leaders recognize that and become determined to do something about it,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officers opposed to the war on drugs.

For interviews, please contact Darby Beck at darby.beck@leap.cc (415.823.5496).

Hearing on Oversight of Federal Programs for Equipping State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies: Statement of Norm Stamper, Seattle Chief of Police (Ret.), advisory board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and Author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing
Introduction. Something has gone terribly wrong with American policing. Never wholeheartedly embraced by a freedom-loving people, the institution recently has suffered a major blow to its image, and to community-police relations. Thanks in part to the federal government’s 1033 Program, which furnishes Department of Defense military surplus to city and county law enforcement, we have seen a rapid and massive expansion in the militarization of local policing exemplified by, but not limited to, the tragedy that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri this August. This trend is disturbing in the extreme, and must be reversed in the interests of public safety and community support for law enforcement.
As a former police chief who has made these mistakes myself (during the 1999 WTO protests in which I authorized military gear as well as the use of tear gas against nonviolent demonstrators), and who has spent the past 15 years working to atone for these past transgressions, I urge a top-to-bottom overhaul of the 1033 program. This is a task best reserved, I think, for multidisciplinary experts (tactical, legal, ethical) combined with a cross-section of the American people and subject to congressional oversight. I do not mean to suggest, however, that tightened regulations, to include inspections, must await a more comprehensive examination of the 1033 program. On the contrary, the current situation demands immediate remedial attention.
I also urge consideration of the role of the federal government in mandating or encouraging additional law enforcement reforms implicit in this paper and along the lines of those developed during previous generations of national inquiries into local police practices.
Community policing. Throughout the ’90s many cities began adopting the policies and practices of community policing. The essence of community policing is deceptively simple: the citizenry and the police working together, in full partnership, to identify, analyze, and solve crime and other neighborhood problems—including, as necessary, the community-police relationship itself. The goal? Safe streets, healthy communities, and a strong community-police bond.
Of course, such a relationship demands a high level of trust between police officers and the people they serve. But even in the most advanced versions of community policing (i.e., those that embrace systematic, joint community-police problem-solving, and reject a cosmetic or “PR” approach), this trust has been elusive. I believe there are two fundamental reasons for this.
America’s War on Drugs. First, the drug war, as the expression implies, has served as the impetus for many departments to “militarize” key aspects of the work, by which I mean procurement of military vehicles and weapons, adoption of military garb, use of military and quasi-military tactics, even the vocabulary of war as local agencies carry out missions to target and defeat the enemy—defined overwhelmingly as drug offenders, be they users or dealers.
From the onset of the drug war in the early ’70s, this “enemy” has been disproportionately young, poor, and nonwhite. Many agencies argue that this is merely a statistical outcome, not an intended consequence.
But since President Nixon famously proclaimed drugs “Public Enemy Number One” and prioritized their eradication, an impossible goal, what has transpired is less a war on drugs than a war on the American people. We have incarcerated tens of millions of young, poor, black and Latino Americans for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. The devastating effects of the drug war on inner-city residents, in particular, cannot be overstated. Families have been fractured and individual lives damaged if not lost. Entire neighborhoods have been turned into war zones, resulting in plummeting property values and a deeply diminished quality of life for millions of Americans. Across the country, residents have been forced to change the way they live and how they raise their children as a result of fear—of both drug trafficking and of law enforcement’s aggressive, militaristic response to it.
Which brings us to the second barrier standing in the way of mutual trust between the police and the people they serve.
A history of paramilitarization. The drug war and post-9/11 considerations aside, policing has, from its early moments, been organized as a paramilitary bureaucracy. How a law enforcement agency is organized—not just the work it does on the streets—gives rise to and shapes an imposing workplace culture. The “cop culture,” whether in compliance or in defiance of department policies and community expectations, pretty much determines the performance and conduct of our police officers.
Much has been written on the powerful influence of this culture, its positives and its negatives. At the heart of current controversies, however, one negative stands out: the tendency of our police officers to isolate themselves, to distance themselves from the residents they have been hired to serve and in the process to form an in-group solidarity that is all but impenetrable. The militarization movement has dramatically exacerbated this tendency.
            Starting in the early ’90s, even as some agencies embraced the language of community policing, most were moving incrementally toward an increased military presence in the communities they serve. SWAT accounted for the bulk of these martial actions, and upwards of 80 percent of all SWAT operations were, and remain, dedicated to low-level drug targets.
The “9/11 Effect.” In the aftermath of 9/11, with new and legitimate concerns about homeland security, we saw a major escalation in the militarization of our police forces. Given the federal government’s generosity in distributing military equipment, vehicles, and weaponry—with virtually no strings attached (no demonstration of need, no training, no maintenance)—we have seen even tiny, rural police departments transformed into small armies, their peace officers converted into soldiers. With no real homeland security challenge, many of the 18,000 local police departments in the U.S. have too often employed their new military materiel and weaponry against essentially nonviolent, nonthreatening citizens.
In light of what we witnessed last month on the streets of Ferguson—city and county police officers clad in “camis,” combat boots, ballistic helmets, and carrying semi-automatic military rifles—even an officer poised prominently atop a tall MRAP (mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle), tripod-mounted sniper rifle at the ready—it is no wonder that so many Americans believe their local cops have become an occupying force, military in appearance, military in demeanor, military in tactics.
If my understanding of the pre-existing relationship between the largely black population of Ferguson, Missouri and its largely white police force is accurate, what happened in the hours after the controversial August 9 shooting death of an African-American teenager was depressingly predictable. Simmering fear, resentment, and tension exploded when at a peaceful vigil the police showed up looking and acting like storm troopers.
Imagine a pre-existing relationship in which the police of Ferguson had instead reached out to their community, had already forged a genuine partnership with its citizens who want nothing more than safe streets and an effective, respectful police force. 
Collateral damage. A single unnecessary or unwise militaristic action can destroy any hope of a constructive community-police relationship: the wrong house hit in a predawn raid of the family home; an elderly, unarmed resident caught in the crossfire; a toddler severely burned by a SWAT “flashbang” grenade; the family pet shot to death in the midst of a “shock and awe” invasion; a police officer killed by a disoriented, bewildered homeowner. Any one of these is enough to create a permanent rift in the way a community views its police force. 
            In the years prior to 9/11 there were roughly 3,000 recorded SWAT missions annually in the entire country. After 9/11—and notably, with the proliferation of the 1033 military surplus program—SWAT operations have mushroomed to more than of 50,000 separate missions per year. Many of these operations have been carried out by enthusiastic but undertrained and undisciplined police officers. The “collateral damage” has been staggering. 
The difference between cops and soldiers. The purpose of our military in wartime is to kill or capture the enemy. By contrast, the purpose of our domestic police agencies is (1) to prevent crime (murder, sexual assault, burglary, domestic violence, grand theft, child abuse, arson, etc.) (2) to detect and apprehend those who commit these criminal offenses (and to assist in their successful prosecution), and (3) to provide other public safety services, ideally in seamless partnership with the residents who benefit from these services. Soldiers follow orders for a living; police officers make decisions for a living.
There will always be times, places, and circumstances that demand a military-like approach with military-like discipline, decisiveness, tactical precision and teamwork. Active shooter incidents, armed and barricaded hostage-takers, and school and workplace shootings come to mind.
The challenge, then, is as obvious as it is difficult to meet. How do we build a police force of honest and honorable men and women who treat one another and the communities they serve with dignity and respect and who have the physical strength, psychological hardiness and resilience, self-confidence and self-discipline required to handle the full range of duties they are called upon to perform when these activities range from a bank robbery in progress to a crib death; from a school shooting to a nonviolent crowd of protestors?
            The answer is complicated but within our grasp. It involves, at a minimum, a careful selection process for choosing new police officers, rigorous training, diligent supervision, effective discipline, and competent and courageous leadership—from elected officials, civic leaders, community activists, and, of course, the police chief and the police union.
It also demands a willingness to tackle the complex structural and cultural barriers to reasoned and responsible police work. Daunting though it may be, we can and must reverse the militarization trend of American law enforcement.
I believe it all starts with a decision. We must decide to view America’s cities as DMZs—demilitarized zones. And to treat our police officers as mature, respected partners of the community, even as we demand they act as such. I’ve written extensively on these and related subjects and invite readers to peruse selected chapters of my book, relevant, I believe, to the issues arising out of Ferguson: “Why White Cops Kill Black Men,” “Racism in the Ranks,” “Staying Alive in a World of Sudden, Violent Death,” and “Demilitarizing the Police.”         
Thank you for your time and for discussing this important topic.
Sincerely,
Norm Stamper, PhD

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Press Release: Brookings Institution Calls Roll Out of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado a Success

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 31, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

BROOKINGS INSTITUTION REPORT: ROLL OUT OF COLORADO MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION SUCCESSFUL

The Brookings Institution released a report today evaluating the initial implementation of marijuana legalization in Colorado and pronouncing it a success. The independent think tank praised the regulatory system in place, saying it addresses “key concerns such as diversion, shirking, communication breakdowns, illegal activity, and the financial challenges facing the marijuana industry” and cited good leadership, strong communication and cultural changes in government, interest groups and the public as having contributed to the favorable outcome.

“Today the Brookings Institution proved what many of us have known for a long time: that legalizing and regulating marijuana and other drugs can be done thoughtfully and responsibly to the benefit of our communities,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “As legalization spreads across the country, regulatory models will only continue to improve, crime continue to drop, and public understanding of drug addiction as a public health problem, not as a matter for law enforcement, continue to expand.”   
   
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officials who, after fighting in the front lines of the war on drugs, now advocate for its end.

For interviews, please contact Darby Beck at darby.beck@leap.cc (415.823.5496).

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Press Release: Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for Oregon Ballot

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 23, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION INITIATIVE QUALIFIES FOR OREGON BALLOT

Will Oregon and Alaska Become the Third and Fourth States to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana?

SALEM–Election officials revealed Tuesday that New Approach Oregon, a group seeking to regulate and control marijuana, had garnered enough signatures (about 88,500) for the measure to qualify for the November ballot. That initiative, which would wrest control of the marijuana market from the street gangs and cartels that now oversee it and place it in the hands of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, would make marijuana legal to grow, distribute, buy and sell to adults over 21 in limited quantities.

“As a man who spent more than thirty years in law enforcement, I think this measure will be tremendously beneficial to the state of Oregon,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials who support the legalization, regulation and control of marijuana for reasons of public safety. “Lower crime, greater tax revenue, millions poured into local economies–it happened in Colorado, and it can happen here.”

If successful, the initiative will allow adults to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana, and to grow up to four plants for personal use. The state would reap $35 in taxes from each ounce sold, and the revenue would go to schools, law enforcement, mental health programs and drug treatment programs.
A similar initiative qualified for the ballot in Alaska in February.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officials who, after fighting in the front lines of the war on drugs, now advocate for its end.

For interviews, please contact Darby Beck at darby.beck@leap.cc (415.823.5496).

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Press Release: House Votes to Allow Banks to Do Business with State-Legal Marijuana Businesses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 16, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

HOUSE VOTES TO ALLOW BANKS TO WORK WITH MARIJUANA BUSINESSES

Bill Amendment Would Remove Treasury Funding for Penalties of State-Legal Businesses

WASHINGTON DC—Today the US House of Representatives voted 231-192 to pass a bipartisan bill amendment introduced by Representatives Denny Heck (D-WA), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that would prevent the Treasury Department from using federal funds to penalize banks and other financial institutions providing services to state-legal marijuana businesses.

Banking has been a major sticking point for marijuana businesses trying to operate legally, since though the Treasury Department issued banks guidelines on how to properly report transactions with marijuana businesses in February, many financial institutions feared they might be charged with money laundering if they worked with businesses dealing with a substance still illegal under federal law. As a result, many marijuana businesses were forced to conduct transactions in cash, creating huge logistical and public safety issues.    

“Though this isn’t as flashy a win as some other drug policy reforms of recent years, banking regulations have been one of the most significant obstacles to creating a well-run legal marketplace,” said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.). “This is a huge victory for those who care about the smart regulation and control of marijuana.”

For supporters, the vote was an echo of a similar bill amendment that passed the House in May eliminating funding for DEA raids on state-licensed medical marijuana businesses and patients. That amendment passed 219-189 in another bipartisan vote.

“What we’re seeing is not just that one of the most gridlocked Congresses in history is able to pass marijuana reforms, we’re seeing that both Democrats and Republicans think of these reforms as smart, politically viable options to a failed drug war,” added Franklin.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officials who, after fighting in the front lines of the war on drugs, now advocate for its end.

For interviews, please contact Darby Beck at darby.beck@leap.cc (415.823.5496).


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