Anti-drug-war cop wants Baltimore police commissioner opening

As the search for Baltimore's next top cop plods along, at least one candidate appears to be openly campaigning for the post - and has a well-known supporter. 

Stanford "Neill" Franklin, who had a 33-year law enforcement career in Maryland and is now executive director of a national group of police against drug prohibition, seems to want the job. A web article appeared this week featuring endorsements for Franklin, including one from Michelle Alexander, author of the acclaimed book, "The New Jim Crow."

"Neill Franklin is the ideal candidate for Commissioner, as he has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to ending mass incarceration and reforming the drug laws, policies, and practices that have turned our communities into war zones," said Alexander, a civil rights litigator and professor at Ohio State University who confirmed the endorsement was authentic. "His decades of experience in law enforcement have transformed his perspective, leading him to see how traditional law enforcement tactics are counterproductive, discriminatory, and lead to greater violence and divisiveness in the very communities that most need constructive – rather than destructive — forms of intervention."

He has local support too, including Sgt. Louis Hopson, a city officer who was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Police Department that led to reforms in internal affairs, and Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, the head of the city's National Action Network chapter, who told The Sun last month that he thought Franklin would be a strong candidate.

Franklin spent 23 years with the Maryland State Police, and joined the Baltimore Police Department in 2000. He led training efforts before being moved to head human resources, but was fired in 2004 by Commissioner Kevin P. Clark. According to a Sun article at the time, he said he was fired because he contradicted Clark's assessment of the department's automobile fleet. The article said Franklin was widely respected by then-current and former commanders for his "straightforward nature."

I've reached out to Franklin for comment on whether he formally applied for the post. Franklin declined an interview, saying through an intermediary that he isn't "campaigning" and "feels speaking with the media about the hiring process at this time could be seen as such." 

There's been little word about the city's search to replace outgoing Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who officially retires Aug. 1 (and, it should be noted, made comments himself about the "failed" war on drugs). Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake selected a panel of college administrators, lawyers and businessmen to conduct a search, and her office has not allowed panel members to speak with the media. Acting Commissioner Anthony Barksdale is considered the in-house favorite. 

Asked for an update last week, the mayor's spokesman said, "We've already said that Commissioner Bealefeld's retirement is effective Aug. 1 and that we want to be on track to have a commissioner in place soon after."

One of the search panel members, deputy mayor Yolanda Jiggetts, is stepping down from her post with the city due to health problems, and there's no intention to replace her on the panel, even though there were complaints from the community that the panel lacked citizen input. At least four of the panel's 10 members appear to reside outside of the city, according to a review of public records.

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