Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Speaking Out Against Marijuana Laws Costing Officers Their Jobs



Sometimes being honest on the job can get you fired.

During a lull in his duties manning the turbulent New Mexico border, Bryan Gonzalez stopped to chat with another officer about the intricacies of the job (i.e. complain about things he didn’t agree with).

Frustrated with the volume of drug arrests that Border Patrol has to process, and sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants, Gonzalez made a statement that cost him his job. “If marijuana were legalized,” Gonzalez recalls saying, “the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease.” He then began to ask around about an organization he’d heard of, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

His colleague reported his comments, and those of officers in agreement with him, to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington D.C. After a brief investigation, a letter terminating his employment arrived in the mail, stating that he held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.” 

He immediately joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

Unfortunately, Gonzalez’s story is not unique. Joe Miller, a probation officer in Arizona, filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court after being fired for supporting LEAP by adding his name to a petition that called for the decrimilization of marijuana.

His attorney, Daniel Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Arizona branch, makes a provocative claim:

“More and more members of the law enforcement community are speaking out against failed drug policies,” says Pochoda, “and they don’t give up their right to share their insight and engage in this important debate simply because they receive government paychecks.

When the California initiative to legalize marijuana failed at the polls, the 32 members of LEAP who signed a letter of support were mostly retired members of law enforcement who could speak their minds without fear of repercussions, reports the New York Times. However, Miller and a handful of others took a “leap” of faith and put their names and jobs on the line…and it cost them.

Since its founding in 2002, LEAP membership has increased from five officers to an email distribution list of 48,000 --- including judges, prosecutors, prison guards, and others.

“No one wants to be fired and have to fight for their job in court,” says LEAP executive director, Neill Franklin. “So most officers are reluctant to sign on board. But we do have some brave souls.” 

It’s unfortunate that officers are being bullied into upholding laws that cause so much unnecessary violence and discrimination on our borders and in our cities. Hopefully, one day the Blue Wall will come tumbling down and our men and women in uniform can honestly share their views on the laws that best protect us.

They are, after all, the ones on the front lines.

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