LEAPing into trouble: When cops challenge pot laws

Dec 3, 2011 at 2:37 pm
One of the most read MT articles of recent months has been Larry Gabriel's Nov. 2 Higher Ground column: "Top cop changes his mind: 'Ike' McKinnon says it’s time to take a public stance." The column details former Detroit police chief Isaiah "Ike" McKinnon's growing doubts about the criminalization of marijuana smokers -- and his current stance that pot should be legalized.

"My position is, let's look at this realistically and honestly. Too much law enforcement money and resources are being used on this. There are better things to spend our money on," McKinnon, now an associate professor of education and human services at University of Detroit Mercy, told Gabriel.

McKinnon joins a growing number of law enforcement and former law enforcement officials challenging the war on drugs. Many of them, although not McKinnon, are formally aligned with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition  (LEAP), whose executive director, Neill Franklin, was also quoted in Higher Ground column.

The high price that police officials can pay for speaking out on this issue, however, was spelled out in today's New York Times in "Police Officers Find That Dissent on Drug Laws May Come With a Price."  The story concerns "law enforcement officials who have lost their jobs for questioning the war on drugs and are fighting back in the courts."

"No one wants to be fired and have to fight for their jobs in court," Franklin told the Times. "So most officers are reluctant to sign on board. But we do have some brave souls.''

The article notes that LEAP, which began with "five disillusioned officers" in 2002, now boasts a mailing list of 48,000 and inlcludes as members "145 judges, prosecutors, police officers, prison guards and other law enforcement officials, most of them retired." (Emphasis added.)

One wonders what LEAP's ranks would look like without the fear of firing and retribution.