Neill Franklin’s good friend was working undercover, set to buy cocaine in downtown Baltimore, Md. Instead, a mid-level dealer shot him at point-blank range, killing him and taking his cash.
Franklin said the murder took place about a decade ago, around the time he retired from the Maryland State Police. And it caused him to re-think the war on drugs.
“It got me to pay attention to some other cases of police officers that were killed while working undercover,” he said.
Franklin has since become executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of police officers who advocate the decriminalization of drugs. The organization made headlines in various news outlets June 25 when it held a press conference in support of state Sen. Daylin Leach’s bill to legalize and tax marijuana in Pennsylvania. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also supported the bill.
“The pharmaceutical industry does not want people being able to manage their pain without their drugs,” Franklin said.
“Marijuana is definitely gaining traction . . . across the globe. And there’s attention now coming to other drugs.”
According to Franklin, ending the war on drugs would de-escalate violence in cities and even smaller communities. He noted that American homicides rates began to decrease after the end of alcohol Prohibition.
“We’ve already ended the prohibition of the most dangerous drug in history,” he said.
“We put forth a system that the cartels and organized crime (bosses) all agree with. These gangs are making $320 billion in proceeds,” he added, citing a United Nations study from 2005.
Franklin said he believes ending the drug war would have two enormous benefits to law enforcement.
First, he said, it would allow police to re-focus their efforts on violent crimes. His experience is that many officers are over-burdened with petty drug cases, which he views as victimless crimes.
Second, it could help police foster a better relationship with people in their communities. According to Franklin, residents can be distrustful of authorities that can imprison them for possessing contraband — making them less likely to cooperate with murder, burglary and other investigations.
“Financially we can’t afford this (drug war) anymore,” he said. “We can’t afford the loss of human capital and life.
“It’s going to take a bottom-up approach because most politicians don’t have the courage to say what they believe.”