Tobacco & Vaping Bans Are Part of the Failed War on Drugs

Police officers in Ocean City, Maryland, recently tackled a Black teenager. One officer repeatedly kneed him in the stomach. As the incident progressed, a crowd gathered, and police physically brawled with members of the crowd, even using a stun gun on one of them. Four teenagers were arrested. The incident quickly went viral.

There was no 911 call alleging that violence was occurring. There was no riot or hostage incident, either. In fact, the officers involved were not responding to any report of serious crime or community members in distress. They were attempting to enforce an anti-vaping ordinance.

Many are questioning the wisdom of such bans on tobacco products, especially as excessive force is being used to enforce them. Some of the teens involved in the Maryland incident spoke out about the traumatic event in subsequent news interviews. They were visiting from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Like lots of people in the region who vacation in Ocean City, they simply wanted to enjoy a fun weekend at the beach. Vaping outdoors does not pose a serious health hazard to bystanders. The amount of force used by police in this situation, and others like it, simply doesn’t make sense. The damage done to police-community relations far outweighs any safeguard on public health.

For years, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership and our speakers have repeatedly warned the public about the consequences of banning vaping and flavored tobacco products. Unfortunately, such bans are becoming more prevalent, despite increasing evidence that they do not work. As we have insisted, these bans increase distrust of the police, particularly in communities of color.

Banning a substance inherently begs the question: how will it be enforced? Decades of the War on Drugs show us that, while Black and white people use drugs at similar rates, Black people are arrested and prosecuted at far higher rates. The viral video in Ocean City demonstrates the same consequences that we have seen from the drug war, a public policy failure that just passed the 50-year mark.

Incidents like the one in Ocean City have a ripple effect on public safety. When people are targeted for violating low-level, non-violent, non-serious ordinances, they lose trust in the police. Then, when violent crimes happen in vulnerable neighborhoods that experience high levels of crime, no one wants to talk to the police. Low clearance rates for violent crimes in these neighborhoods means that more people in these communities take disputes into their own hands, rather than letting the legal system sort them out. This is an intolerable state of affairs that increases violent crime rates, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color.

We have no doubt legislators have passed vaping bans with good intentions, but sometimes they need a reminder about what these laws force police to do on the job. We need police to prioritize building relationships that inspire trust and responding to serious crimes, not hassling people over minor ordinance issues.

Det. Debbie Ramsey (Ret.) served with the Baltimore Police Department and is now a representative of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), a nonprofit group of police and other criminal justice professionals who support smart-on-crime policies.

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Police Group Opposes Federal Menthol Ban Proposal

Menthol Bans Fail to Reduce Smoking While Creating Additional Tensions Between Police & Communities of Color

Today, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership released a letter sent to the Food & Drug Administration this week urging federal regulators to reject a citizen proposal to ban menthol tobacco products. Banning drugs is an escalation of the drug war, a policy scheme that Americans across the political spectrum agree isn’t working.

Photo by Basil MK from Pexels

Date: April 26, 2021
Re: Menthol Ban/AATCLC Lawsuit
Position: OPPOSE
To: Mitch Zeller, JD
Director, Center for Tobacco Products

Dear Mr. Zeller,

I write to you both as a retired lieutenant and as the executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP). LEAP is a nonprofit group of police, prosecutors, judges, and other criminal justice professionals who speak from firsthand experience to endorse evidence-based public safety policies. Our mission is to make communities safer by focusing law enforcement resources on the most serious priorities, promoting alternatives to arrest and incarceration, addressing the root causes of crime, and healing police-community relations.

I speak on behalf of more than 5,000 current and retired members of law enforcement across the country. We believe law enforcement voices should be heard in consideration of tobacco bans because they know just how much these prohibitions damage trust between police and communities of color without effectively reducing youth tobacco use.

The mere idea that we should legally prohibit menthol, the preferred choice of Black smokers, disregards the legacy of tension — as well as the present conflict — between police and communities of color. I was an officer during Rodney King, yet I have never seen such a high level of sustained tension between police and communities as we have witnessed together since the murders of George Floyd Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, and others.

Prohibiting menthol and other flavors creates an underground market. Demand is high, supply is scarce, and people who need the income — such as those living in low-income communities — have a financial incentive to illegally sell those products.

We all know how this story goes. Last year, an unarmed 14-year-old Black child in Rancho Cordova was assaulted by an officer over a cigarillo. In 2014, Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man and father of six, was choked to death while being arrested for selling loose cigarettes. These interactions destroy police-community trust and make our difficult jobs that much harder. People who do not trust us do not report crimes, even when they themselves are the victim. People who do not trust police are not just mistrusting; they are afraid. They are more afraid of us than they are of being victimized again.

What this says about our laws is that we have to think deliberately about what we ask police to enforce. Creating more reason for police to enter communities of color and have negative interactions is bad for all of us.

We also need to look at history and see what happens when a product is banned. The prohibition of alcohol and the laws against marijuana both provide excellent examples. Thus far, menthol products have been able to be obtained legally and so they are manufactured and sold by regulated businesses. That means ensuring the product goes through rigid quality control, that the market is professionally run, and that those selling them don’t sell to kids. It also means a lot of tax revenue.

If menthol becomes illegal however, none of this will apply. As we saw with alcohol and marijuana, when a popular product is banned, that just means the market will be run by criminal organizations who can make huge profits in this space to finance all of their other activities. They will grow stronger and more dangerous.

But if we know what doesn’t work, we also know what does. Instead of giving the police yet another public health problem we cannot fix, we should instead invest in anti-smoking education and prevention resources for the communities that need it most.

Anyone who cares about public safety, public health, and the growing divide between police and communities, especially communities of color, should be alarmed by thoughts of a menthol ban. If it passes, we can expect more negative interactions between police and communities, and stronger criminal organizations with little change in tobacco use. Please include law enforcement voices in the consideration of the lawsuit — they will tell you that a menthol ban would be bad for police-community trust, weaken protections for children, and strengthen criminal organizations, all with little effect on supply or demand. We’ve seen it with alcohol, we’ve seen it with marijuana. I beg you not to let it happen with menthol.

Thank you for your time,

Lieutenant Diane Goldstein (Ret.)
Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership

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Retired Police Chief Supports Restoring Voting Rights

By Chief Ronnie Roberts (Ret.)

When people are released from prison, they must have the tools and support to re-integrate successfully into our communities and stay on a positive path. Yet Washington state currently throws up needless barriers to re-entry for formerly incarcerated people — including denying them the right to vote. Washington Senators took an important step to address this injustice this week by passing House Bill 1078, which will to restore voting rights to all citizens who are not in prison.

As Chief of the Olympia Police Department, I wanted to stop cycling the same people through our correctional facilities and emergency rooms. I created the Familiar Faces program, which identified the people involved in dozens of police calls every month and provided them with peer navigators: — people with lived experience with mental health challenges, substance use disorders, homelessness, and criminal justice involvement.

Peer navigators connect well with program participants because they have truly walked a mile in their shoes. These relationships are the key to getting the right services to the right people who might not trust anyone else, especially a police officer. Peer navigators also have been transforming the way our officers connect with the people impacted by our criminal legal system. One day, I was surprised to see one of my sergeants, who had always viewed people with past convictions as the “bad guys,” sitting down with a peer navigator to strategize about how to engage a Familiar Faces client in services. My sergeant had finally learned to see our peer navigators as important partners.

Despite their invaluable community service, some of our peer navigators cannot vote. They are transforming public safety in Olympia by building relationships that stabilize lives and reduce arrests, emergency room visits, and 911 calls. Yet they have past convictions, and some are on community supervision, Washington’s version of parole and probation. During the months or years that they are under community supervision, they are living at home, working, and changing how both police officers and the formerly incarcerated think about public safety, yet many of them cannot participate in our democracy.

House Bill 1078 will change this. Once Governor Inslee signs this bill into law, Washington will restore voting rights to over 20,000 people living in our communities. The House version of the bill is bipartisan, and its prime sponsor, Rep. Tarra Simmons, is believed to be the first formerly incarcerated individual to be elected as a state legislator. This bill will bring Washington up to speed with Oregon, Indiana, Ohio, and 21 other states that already allow all citizens who are not in prison to vote.

The success of House Bill 1078 is a big win for public safety, as restoring voting rights is associated with reducing the number of people returning to the system. Research has shown that civic engagement and inclusion improve re-entry outcomes. When people feel that their voices are heard and accepted in their community, they are less likely to fall back into criminal activity. The American Probation and Parole Association has supported the restoration of voting rights for people on community supervision since 2007 because disenfranchisement works against re-entry.

Rights restoration is also going to help rebuild community trust, particularly in communities of color. One key source of record-high distrust in law enforcement is the presence of racial disparities in the criminal legal system, and a prime case of racial disparity is the denial of voting rights. Today, Black and Indigenous residents make up just 6% of Washington’s population, yet they make up over 16% of those who have lost their voting rights.

As police chief, my work with peer navigators taught me that formerly incarcerated people are valuable members of our communities who can establish strong relationships that help police reduce crime. The passage of House Bill 1078 was a win for public safety, and a win for the thousands of Washingtonians who will be brought back into our democracy.

Ronnie Roberts served in policing for 33 years, retiring as Chief of the Olympia Police Department in December 2019. To connect with him and other law enforcement in support of restoring voting rights, contact the Law Enforcement Action Partnership at Speakers@LawEnforcementAction.org.

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Black Deputy’s Suicide Connected to Systemic Issues in Policing

Former Louisiana Officer Called His Choice a “Protest”

On Monday, February 2nd, Deputy Clyde Kerr III of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana committed suicide at the age of 43. He was a father, a military veteran, and a beloved member of his community.

Deputy Kerr revealed his reasoning to take his own life in a series of videos made shortly before his death. He said that as a Black police officer, he simply could not participate in a system that did not value his life. He called his suicide a “protest.”

Our hearts are with his family, his former colleagues, and the students and staff of St. Genevieve School, where he served as a school resource officer.

To prevent future tragedies like this one, the way police departments deal with mental health must change.

Police should undergo regular psychological evaluations and receive mental health support without fear of losing their jobs or their respect from peers. Police leaders must take responsibility for the culture of their departments by addressing the stigma of counseling in our profession by normalizing conversations about emotions, trauma, and healing. Peer support groups go a long way, but they are not enough. Just as we are regularly trained in self-defense, we must also be regularly trained and supported in self-care.

And officers who stand up against injustice must be protected. If you are a police officer who’s tired of the status quo, there is a place for you at the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP). We elevate the voices of police and other law enforcement professionals who see the failures of our justice system and work to create communities that are safer and more just. With the help of hundreds of organizations across the political spectrum, we support real solutions that repair police-community relations, reduce incarceration, and end the War on Drugs.

To my fellow officers, retired and still in uniform, you are not alone. This time is ripe for transformation. We can and will grow from this and help build a better future for our country.

Lt. Diane Goldstein (Ret.)
Executive Director
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)

https://www.copline.org/contact-us

National Suicide Prevention Hotline, available 24/7 in English and Spanish: 800–273–8255

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The Dangers of “Blue Culture” in Policing, According to a Retired Officer

A Police Captain Reflects on Her Career and Why Good Police are Leaving the Profession in Droves

Law enforcement officials are resigning in high numbers in the wake of nationwide protests against police shootings. It would be easy to assume these leaders oppose the call for increased accountability and oversight, and that is sometimes the case. But some of those resigning are reformer officers who spent decades working to fix longstanding issues within their departments and in broader policing culture. As a recently retired police captain and as a Black woman who has been in a similar position, I can attest that the toxic backlash reform-minded officers receive from other police officers is often a significant motivating factor in the decision to leave policing.

This is a result of the “Blue Culture.” Blue Culture describes the tendency of law enforcement to not only band together in the face of scrutiny, but to also be suspicious of and reject those who call for systemic change, even their own peers and co-workers. Groupthink pervades all levels of policing. Officers are expected to operate uniformly. If they deviate from the prescribed path, their colleagues are likely to treat them as outsiders.

To truly do the job well, a collaborative mindset and flexible thinking are necessary, but one of the ways Blue Culture stifles this is by the abuse of the police power of discretion. For instance, a 2013 study found that marijuana was the most commonly used drug in America: 19.8 million people, or 7.5% of the country’s total population over the age of 12, identified as current users — this is regardless of race. With such a significant percentage of the population consuming marijuana, an officer can reasonably expect to find the drug through random searches known as pretextual stops. However, pretextual stops disparately impact Black communities. Police do not have to arrest every person suspected to be a marijuana user, but many officers use encounters that involve marijuana as the potential golden ticket to finding evidence of other crimes, stretching the purpose of the 4th Amendment for search and seizure, and adding to an already tense relationship between police and Black communities. In addition, officers who may not be in alignment with the practice may remain quiet in order to have less discomfort at work.

Some officers will insist they are improving public safety by making petty marijuana arrests, but what actually occurs is an alienation of not only the individual arrested, but their family members, friends, and their community. By making easy arrests for something most Americans believe should be legal, they create a criminal history or augment a criminal history unnecessarily. Those same community members might be wary of cooperating with law enforcement in the future. Ultimately, police are achieving the opposite of what they claim they intended, and the community continues to distrust the police.

Internally, Blue Culture involves poor hiring and promotion practices. Those who should be hired because they were well-qualified are often passed over for those who fit the traditional image of a police officer. This is often at the expense of diversity. When I supervised a background investigative unit for hiring in my department, I questioned why less qualified applicants were being hired. Many of them were related to someone in the department or had the right connections. In addition, good officers are frequently held back from advancement, especially when they advocate for common sense changes to policing culture. Favoritism and nepotism teaches police that the only way to succeed — and avoid conflict at work — is to uphold the status quo. Instead, we should encourage police officers to seek ways to improve the effectiveness of their organizations and strengthen their relationships with their communities through diversity of ideas and action.

For women and officers of color, the worst aspects of the Blue way of thinking are exacerbated by underlying racial tensions present in policing, stemming from its foundation as slave patrols in the 1700s. Black officers begin their law enforcement careers knowing that one of the primary roles of this profession has historically been the subjugation of their communities. The stereotypes and systemic racism born out of that history continue to this day in policing culture, making it difficult for minority officers to challenge abuse without suffering ostracism, hostility, and professional limitations.

Between internal pressures from fellow officers and external pressures from societal unrest, it is not surprising that many officers committed to reform are leaving the profession. However, there are changes that department leaders and public officials can make to help retain good officers.

One of the key policing recommendations proposed by the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) earlier this year is a national registry designed to track police misconduct, which would ensure that officers fired for misconduct are not hired in other jurisdictions. This would indicate to the public that behavior harmful to the community is taken seriously and that the officers responsible are held accountable by police leadership. The National Decertification Index attempts to do this but falls short because the information is not public, data is inconsistent and incomplete, few departments are aware of it, and even fewer use it. There are currently no mandates to use it or abide by it.

Additionally, LEAP recommends reforming state laws and police union contracts so that records of misconduct and disciplinary action are not shielded from public view. Furthermore, implementing mindfulness training, de-escalation, and nonviolent communication training can help shift policing culture, unravelling the animosity some officers hold toward reform-minded colleagues and members of the public.

Many of us entered policing because we want to ethically serve our departments and our communities, but internal practices need to evolve so that police officers are empowered for their good work, not punished. Until then, we will continue to lose our chance at substantial change and law enforcement legitimacy.

Capt. Sonia Pruitt (Ret.) is a veteran of the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland and a speaker for the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP).

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PRESS RELEASE: LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTION PARTNERSHIP CONDEMNS US CAPITOL SIEGE

On January 6th, 2021, a group of insurrectionists championing President Donald Trump’s false claims of a rigged election stormed the US Capitol Building and disrupted the final electoral college vote count. These violent individuals vandalized the nation’s highest government offices, threatening elected officials, their staffers, and our American democracy and national security.

The following is a statement issued by Lt. Diane Goldstein (Ret.), 21-year police veteran and executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, on behalf of the organization:

The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) calls on all law enforcement officials and those who support them to reject this despicable act of domestic terrorism. Those responsible for this incident should be held socially and criminally accountable. As an attempt to overturn a legitimate election, these actions should be understood as a treasonous assault on our democracy.

This is a critical moment for law enforcement to unify around our shared missions of maintaining community safety and preserving constitutional principles. While our laws are imperfect and in a constant state of refinement, the democratic process must allow us to do that work peacefully and free from fear. These events point to a crisis that must be addressed immediately. If we do not take this moment seriously, we will be left vulnerable to attack from both domestic and foreign enemies.

Today, and every day, LEAP calls on those who truly love this country to stand with us as we call for justice and peace.

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The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) is a nonprofit group of police, judges, prosecutors, and other criminal justice professionals who use their expertise to advance public safety solutions. LEAP’s more than 270 law enforcement representatives from diverse backgrounds speak on behalf of thousands of law enforcement professionals across the U.S.

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Dear supporter,

2020: A Year in Review

with the Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Dear supporter,

As we wind down the year, LEAP is spotlighting key justice and drug policy issues that made an impact in 2020. Our law enforcement experts address these topics head-on, creating positive change to the justice system. Throughout our year-end funding campaign, you’ll hear directly from our speakers on why these issues matter to them personally, and why they should matter to everyone invested in changing the system — and the world — for the better.

In solidarity,
The LEAP Staff

Today, one of our most recognizable speakers takes on one of the biggest issues of the year: MAJOR NEILL FRANKLIN (RET.) on “DEFUND THE POLICE”

We need to face the fact that our communities are — and have long been — overpoliced and undersupported. Our police are being burdened with tasks they haven’t been prepared for, and which would be better handled by other service providers or community stakeholders. Incremental change is not good enough anymore. We need to start over. The new way forward for our justice system must begin with meeting communities where we are, and all of us getting on the same page with envisioning where we want to be. We need to have frank, and likely uncomfortable, conversations that include all voices within our communities.

Who doesn’t want stronger, more peaceful communities? People need to feel like they can trust the police and trust the justice system. Right now, an unsettling number of our fellow Americans feel targeted and threatened by the police and the justice system. And police trying to reform the broken system from within feel like the people they serve often view them as the enemy. “Defund the Police” is meant to convey an urgent need for change, not the empty promises and inaction we’ve seen up to this point. But what does it really mean?

For many of us, “defund the police” actually means making more balanced investments in our communities. It means restructuring police budgets and redistributing responsibilities that should not fall under the realm of policing, but within social services. We need to spark a movement that is significant, thorough, and — most importantly — strategic. We need good police to lead the way toward policies that prioritize public safety and the implementation of ethical, effective best practices.

What good does a “law and order” approach do if enforcing the law as we have been leads to chaos in our neighborhoods? Fear in communities of color? Displacement of people struggling with poverty, addiction, or mental health crises? Mass retirement of police dedicated to racial justice and social equality, who we need to lead the next generation?

We need to recalibrate the role of policing in society.

Major Neill Franklin (Ret.) discusses “Defund the Police” with CNN’s Don Lemon

Unless and until we acknowledge the problematic structure that brought us to this point, we won’t be able to change the system. And this is a system desperately in need of tangible change, especially for those who are most impacted by the current state of policing and the violence it perpetuates.

Cutting funding for vital community programs in favor of militaristic police programs is why we’re in this mess. We need to rethink the necessity of incarceration, engage in restorative and transformative justice whenever possible, and level the system to a place of true justice for all. Let’s build up programs that support community wellbeing instead of fostering a system focused on and enmeshed in punishment. Let’s reallocate overinflated police budgets and redistribute funding to practical community services. Let’s fund schools, community centers, libraries, affordable housing options. Moving in this direction will make our communities stronger, our police more effective at addressing serious crime, and our people feel safer and more secure. Police should not have unchecked power. We are a part of our communities, protectors of our communities, but we are not dictators or soldiers at war. We should stop thinking of our role as literal “enforcers.” We are protectors, public servants, and, ideally, peace officers.

When I hear “Defund the Police,” I hear a call for change. I, like many of you, don’t want or expect to live in a lawless society. But as a community member and a 34-year police veteran, I don’t want things to continue the way they have been. I want us to reimagine policing, reinvest in communities, and find a better way forward. For all of us.”

To support LEAP’s work on TRANSFORMING POLICING in 2021, donate today.

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US HOUSE PASSES HISTORIC MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION BILL 228 to 164

Police Group Who Helped Pass Measure Comments on Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act

Today, the US House of Representatives passed HR.3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) by a vote of 228 to 164. The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), a nonprofit group of police and other criminal justice professionals, endorsed the MORE Act because it would address serious public safety and social equity concerns associated with marijuana enforcement.

“As a police officer, I helped wage a so-called war on marijuana. But no matter how hard we tried, how many losses we were willing to sustain to our own side, how many dollars spent, and how many lives ruined, we never made a dent in either demand or supply for very long. Today I am thrilled to see that after almost fifty years of this catastrophic war, our congressional leaders have finally decided to lay down their arms and try something that works.” ” — Police Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership

The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, federally descheduling and decriminalizing the drug and allowing states to set their own policies. The bill would facilitate the expungement of millions of marijuana convictions and impose a 5% federal tax on marijuana sales that would fund grants allocated for communities most impacted by the War on Drugs. The MORE Act would also prohibit the denial of federal benefits, such as housing, due to marijuana use.

In 2019, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership endorsed HR.3884, which was introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler and received 120 co-sponsors, including Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. The companion bill in the Senate, S.2227, was introduced by Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and co-sponsored by seven senators. The bill is expected to face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate even though 60% of Republican voters support the legislation. A recent Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans support marijuana legalization.

To speak with a police officer, judge, prosecutor, corrections officer, or federal agent about why they support the MORE Act, contact LEAP at Media@LawEnforcementAction.org.

The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) is a nonprofit group of police, judges, and other criminal justice professionals who advance evidence-based public safety policies and programs. LEAP’s 270 representatives speak on behalf of more than 5,000 law enforcement personnel who support ending the War on Drugs, alternatives to incarceration, and solutions to America’s police-community relations crisis.

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Criminal Justice Reform Won the 2020 Election

Pro-Reform Law Enforcement Will Keep Pushing For Justice & Equality

Several states made groundbreaking progress this week. The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) is proud to endorse these efforts, and we offer our heartfelt congratulations. Ultimately, we are working to make America a country that rejects injustice and inequality. A country that holds police accountable to the people they serve. A country that believes in a public health approach to issues that do not belong within the justice system. We are working toward a future that builds our communities up and helps them grow. We, the American people, determine the future of this country.

Here’s a breakdown of eight successful key state campaigns:

  • Oregon: Measure 110 passed, making Oregon the first state in the country to decriminalize drug possession and fund quality treatment services for those who need and want them. This is a huge step in dismantling the War on Drugs, ending the criminalization of drug use, and implementing a public health approach that allows law enforcement to focus on responding to serious crime. Measure 109 also passed, allowing the clinical use of psilocybin therapy, which offers a promising treatment option for serious mental health conditions when used under the guidance of licensed mental health professionals.
  • Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, and South Dakota: all four approved measures to legalize, regulate, and tax the adult use of marijuana. South Dakota also approved the use of medical marijuana. Mississippi voted to allow doctors in the state to recommend medical marijuana to people with certain conditions. The majority of Americans support marijuana legalization, and with these victories, we move closer to making sure our laws reflect the will of the people, taking marijuana out of the hands of the justice system and putting an end to hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests made each year.
  • California: Proposition 17 passed, restoring the right to vote to people who are on parole. Proposition 20 was successfully defeated, upholding recent reforms that mitigated years of harsh sentencing and parole penalties. Prop 20 will work to ensure that dangerous prison overcrowding and racial disparities in the justice system are addressed. LA County’s Measure J passed, amending the county charter to permanently allocate at least 10% of existing locally controlled revenues to be directed to community investments and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Ohio: Local ballot initiative, Columbus Issue 2, passed, creating a civilian review board to carry out independent investigations of police misconduct accusations in the city. This is a massively important step in ensuring transparency and accountability in policing, which will remain a top priority for LEAP as we move into 2021 and beyond.

Our speakers did not let the pandemic keep them from lending their support in these key states where criminal justice reform was on the ballot: they gave interviews, wrote op-eds, appeared in campaign ads, and endorsed ballot initiatives, serving as the law enforcement voice for reform. LEAP was instrumental in driving change forward this election season. We are so proud of the impact our speakers made this election season, pushing for common sense laws making communities safer and more just.

But there’s still work to be done. California’s Prop 25, which would have ended cash bail, was defeated. LEAP speakers will keep fighting to replace cash bail with alternatives based on defendants’ risk to public safety, not on how much money they have. In Oklahoma, SQ 805 was defeated, meaning harsh sentencing enhancements that can keep people in prison longer for nonviolent crimes will remain in place. Yes, we are disappointed in these outcomes, but they do not distract from our successes. LEAP speakers will keep educating policymakers and the public about the need for more just policies that focus on community wellbeing and enable people who have been caught in the system to rebuild their lives. You can count on us to be where you need us most.

Supporters like you help get our speakers where they need to be, get our message to the masses, and — most importantly — drive our speakers and staff to keep working toward real, tangible changes to our justice system. Our collective safety depends on it.

In solidarity,

Major Neill Franklin (Ret.)
Executive Director, The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)

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Breonna Taylor is a Victim of Our Senseless War on Drugs.

Today, a grand jury announced that former Louisville, Kentucky, police officer Brett Hankison will be charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. These charges are related to shots he fired into apartments surrounding Breonna Taylor’s, who was killed by one of the officers at the scene during the incident. No charges were filed in response to Taylor’s killing.

Breonna Taylor’s death was preventable, but according to laws set forth by our War on Drugs, her killing is justifiable because police suspected that her home was involved in illegal drugs. No drugs were found during the raid. One study of tactical police deployments nationwide found that for drug-related warrant executions, drugs and related contraband were only confirmed on-site 35% of the time.

We hope that the high-profile nature of this case draws attention to the systemic failures of the drug war and exposes the urgent need for policy change to public officials at every level of government.

Once again, a community grieves the death of an innocent person as well as the absence of justice and accountability. We at the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) grieve alongside those demanding justice and repeat our call to end the War on Drugs, because this is truly a war on people that falls hardest on people of color, people living in poverty, people with mental health disorders, and people who live outside.

The belief that police are the only entity capable of preventing societal collapse is misguided and rampant. There is no humility in the concept of “the thin blue line,” the imaginary line on which officers put themselves on the side of righteousness. We are not immune to mistakes and we should not be shielded from the consequences of our actions. If the law shields us from accountability, then the law is wrong.

Help us end the War on Drugs today.

The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) is a nonprofit group of police, judges, prosecutors, and other criminal justice professionals who use their expertise to advance evidence-based public safety solutions. LEAP is the only group of law enforcement working to end the War on Drugs.

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