WIDESPREAD, SUPER-SECRET, SUPPORT FOR PROP. 19 ISSUES CONTINUES TO EXIST IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
by Leo E. Laurence, J.D., Â© 2010
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, San Diego
Many active duty, law enforcement officers (local, state, federal) are quietly supporting Prop. 19 issues even as the brass of their departments push the official, federal-oriented, opposition. Maybe itâ€™s because I once wore a badge, carried a weapon 24/7, and am a frequent speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, but several law enforcement officers (local-state-fed) were willing to confidentially discuss the issues involving marijuana with me. Only their names are withheld.
â€œWhile the people who are in charge (police chiefs, sheriffs, prison wardens) were making unsupported statements opposing Prop. 19, most of the officers I talked with were privately supporting it, even in other police agencies,â€ said one state agent. â€œThere is a real fear of retaliation from superiors in law enforcement against telling the truth,â€ he reported. â€œOur bosses and the county D.A. were able to make grossly distorted, false statements about marijuana in opposition to 19, but we couldnâ€™t say one word about the truth. We had no First Amendment rights. That kept a lot of officers from speaking out publicly about their experiences with people on marijuana.â€
â€œAs a practical matter, we have no free-speech rights. There would be some form of retaliation. It could be something like a transfer to a really bad assignment or a sudden, radical change in work hours, regardless, they are hard to fight,â€ he confided.
â€œIn speaking with officers from different agencies, itâ€™s difficult to speak freely in support of Prop. 19 issues because the people who are in charge â€“ the police chiefs, sheriffs, and prison wardens – donâ€™t want their employees to say something that is not consistent to what the politicians are saying,â€ another officer stated.
â€œThe county D.A., Bonnie Dumanis, has a lot of influence on all law enforcement agencies operating in our area, even the feds, and it really hurt when she came out with so many false statements about marijuana and the facts on Prop. 19,â€ explained a senior, city, active duty officer. â€œWe are incarcerating a lot of people for things that are not really hurting anyone,â€ said a state officer. â€œThe mainstream media paints pictures of people who use marijuana as dangerous and causing problems; that has not been our experience,â€ the active duty officer confided. This is potentially explosive since the debate over taxing and regulating cannabis continues world-wide, even after the election.
â€œIn my 18 years of experience in law enforcement, Iâ€™ve never had anyone under the influence of marijuana become violent or assault one of our officers,â€ the state agent reported. â€œMost of what people do in the privacy of their home, unless a crime is being committed, should be allowed as long as itâ€™s legal. Myself and a lot of my fellow officers were shocked that Prop. 19 did not pass. I think it has a lot to do with what the federal government did, and their intimidation tactics,â€ the agent believes.
â€œThe U.S. Attorney General made it a point to say that his department would still convict people if they catch them with marijuana. We were surprised in our department. People who use marijuana are, in reality, our doctors, lawyers, university students, business owners, and every day, average people. People consuming marijuana do NOT cause the type of problems for themselves or others that is portrayed in the media,â€ the state agent reported.
No Training on 19
â€œWhen I was at the academy, and even now on-the-job, it wasnâ€™t taught. What are the effects?Â What is the science?Â What does the latest research show?Â That was not in our classes because they didnâ€™t know,â€ said a county deputy. â€œThe reason why some deputies opposed Prop. 19 was because of what they were hearing on the streets or in the media, and most of that was wrong. There was no literature or anything at all. The only training we had was how to identify marijuana, what it smelled like, and what a suspectâ€™s eyes are going to look like, but there was no hard science behind any of it,â€ he went on to add.
Law enforcement is a paramilitary operation. Officers obey orders, even when they disagree with them, and they know how to keep their mouths shut. However, they do talk privately.
Code of Silence
â€œI heard about Prop. 19 in the hall all the time, but there is a code of silence operating. Itâ€™s a code of silence in the administration, among the other officers, in other law enforcement agencies, and especially in the D.A.â€™s office,â€ reported another senior officer. â€œIt said that Prop. 19 just couldnâ€™t pass. Weâ€™ve got to do whatever is necessary to stop it,â€ the veteran officer disclosed. â€œThe only literature I saw was the departmentâ€™s attempt to reiterate its official policy as it related to marijuana. In a separate memo, the department notified us that regardless of the results of the election, state agencies would still be using federal law as it applies to state employees,â€ he said.
There is a useful code among law enforcement officers that exists to protect the profession. Itâ€™s often criticized by the media, politicians, and career criminals, but itâ€™s real, itâ€™s unwritten, and itâ€™s necessary. Many in law enforcement believe the code is abused when itâ€™s used to deny an officer (active or retired) the basic right to freedom of speech, which is happening today.
â€œA majority of the sworn officers I know think that marijuana should be legal,â€ said a federal officer in a confidential interview. â€œThey think that alcohol is much more dangerous than marijuana.â€
Plentiful in Prison
â€œItâ€™s getting into our prisons because there is money to be made,â€ reported one senior, state prison officer. A $20 amount of marijuana on the street could cost you at least $200 while in jail,â€ the officer revealed. â€œItâ€™s a BIG business! Inside our prison system, weâ€™ll find it. When doing cell searches, I would find marijuana hidden within the cells. I once found it inside a pill jar that was also inside of a larger spice container to throw off any kind of scent. At times, we do have dogs on the premises and perform cell searches looking for narcotics. I found more marijuana and dope inside the prison than I ever did on the streets. Some of it comes through visiting and sometimes itâ€™s the officers who bring it in. Providing marijuana â€˜secretlyâ€™ is definitely a real way of controlling the prisoners. Itâ€™s better to work with them (inmates) and provide the marijuana they want. It definitely helps with prison control,â€ the officer emphasized. â€œThereâ€™s money to be made through these clandestine sales by the officers. And as long as thereâ€™s a demand in our jails and prisons, itâ€™s going to get in there,â€ the experienced officer added.
â€œA lady was visiting a prison with her young child. She was processed to come inside, but when she got to the actual visiting area, deep within the prison, she got clumsy and dropped a very small, sandwich-bag of marijuana right in front of an officer. She was taken into custody and turned over to the sheriff, who had to be called in. Another county department had to send a special unit to take custody of the young womanâ€™s child, who was then transported to the countyâ€™s Polinsky Childrenâ€™s Center. After the incident, there was a lot of discussion inside the department about the amount of money that would be spent dealing with this simple incident. There were incident reports that had to be completed; you can put a dollar amount on that.Â Contacting the sheriffâ€™s office and having her car towed was all expensive. There were transportation and custody costs for her, plus court costs. We thought it was incredible.Â What a waste of money to go after that young woman and her young child, and to put the little kid through hell.Â For each prisoner, the state pays over $43,000 per inmate,â€ the officer added.
â€œHad the Obama Administration (Department of Justice) not stepped in, I think there would have been a good chance of it passing,â€ the veteran officer stated. â€œWhen employees in my department began to find out about the Prop. 19 movement to tax and regulate marijuana, they started asking questions. As a supervisor, I had employees asking me: how is the current policy going to be affected by Prop.19? Now the departmentâ€™s policy is that a law enforcement employee cannot have any trace of THC in their system. We have random drug testing. And when a lot of employees started contacting headquarters and asking questions, the department generated a memorandum stating that even if Prop. 19 passed, they would still follow federal law. Regardless if the employee had a medical marijuana card or if the proposition passed, there would still be disciplinary action.
â€œIf someone is believed to be smoking on-the-job, they will be sent to U.S. Healthworks, the private company that does our departmental testing,â€ the sworn officer reported. â€œThere are too many kinds of medical-marijuana cards out there right now,â€ another active-duty agent told me, after his confidentiality was assured. â€œMany look poorly done.â€
Only Costly County Cards May Be OK
â€œThe word inside our department right now is that the D.A. and many law enforcement agencies within San Diego County will only be acknowledging the countyâ€™s ID card, issued by the County Department of Public Health,â€ the senior officer revealed.
The county medical marijuana cards can cost $166.
Go to www.sdcounty.ca.gov/hhsa/programs/phs/mmic or call (619)692-5723
Current and former law-enforcement officers are asked to contact Leo E. Laurence, J.D. of L.E.A.P. at firstname.lastname@example.org, or preferably call his cell: (619) 757-4909.
Everything is strictly confidential!