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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Monday, July 7, 2014

Press Release: Washington State To Begin Sales of Marijuana Tuesday

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 7, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

WASHINGTON BEGINS LEGAL SALES OF MARIJUANA TUESDAY

In the wake of glowing reports coming out of Colorado six months after the state began retail sales of marijuana, Washington state’s Liquor Control Board plans to issue up to 20 licenses to retail businesses today, and stores can open as early as Tuesday in theory, though few stores seem likely to be ready by that time, and since growers only received their licenses in March, supply will be limited at first.

“I’m sure the first day will be a disappointment to some consumers,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), 34-year police veteran and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. “But this isn’t meant to be a party. Any delays are reflective of the fact that Washington state is taking the responsibility to regulate and control this new industry seriously.”

“Washingtonians know that, as in Colorado, governments both foreign and domestic will be watching to see how legalization progresses in the state,” said Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper (Ret.), a LEAP speaker and advisory board member. “And I imagine that, as in Colorado, lower crime rates, increased tax revenue, thousands of new jobs and continuing public support will indicate legalizing and regulating marijuana is one of the simplest ways to improve not just our criminal justice system, but our state governments generally.”

Nearly 7,000 businesses applied for the 334 licenses authorized by I-502, the voter initiative which legalized marijuana in the state. Those licenses are strictly controlled and come with a host of regulations, including prohibitions on retailers being within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and other locations likely to be frequented by children. So far, no manufacturer has passed the stringent requirements surrounding marijuana-infused edibles.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officials who, after fighting on 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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Monday, June 9, 2014

Press Release: DEA Targeting Physicians Working with Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Massachusetts

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

DEA TARGETING PHYSICIANS IN MASSACHUSETTS
Doctors Working with Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Told to Give Up Their Position Or Give Up Their License
Less than two weeks after the House of Representatives passed a measure that would defund Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, reports have begun to surface of the DEA intimidating physicians trying to work with state-legal dispensaries in Massachusetts. MassLive and the Boston Globe report that several physicians have been told that if they continue to serve in an advisory capacity for medical marijuana dispensaries, they will lose their DEA license to prescribe certain controlled substances. Already, some doctors have been forced to resign their advisory positions with the dispensaries, which Massachusetts voters agreed to allow in November 2012, possibly delaying the opening of some dispensaries.
“I cannot think of a worse use of law enforcement resources than to undermine a democratically enacted law by intimidating professionals trying to ensure a program designed to help the sick operates as well as it possibly can. This is a gross example of the confused, immoral logic of prohibition gone awry, and frankly, it disgusts me,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs.
“Medical marijuana dispensaries are not required to have medical advisors and these actions are likely to have a chilling effect,” Major Franklin added. “They’re not preventing the dispensaries from opening. They’re merely preventing those who run them from doing all they can to ensure they’re as safe and effective for patients as possible.”
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the right of physicians to recommend medical marijuana to their patients but that decision carries precedential value only in the states under its jurisdiction. Advocates fear this tactic may spread to other places trying to comply with state laws.
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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