LEAP Good news from Berlin: The organisation of police officers and other law enforcers LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) has now been established in Germany. This non-profit organisation, which has had great success in the USA, only has one other section in Europe, in the UK.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition has arrived in Europe
Good news from Berlin: The organisation of police officers and other law enforcers LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) has now been established in Germany. This non-profit organisation, which has had great success in the USA, only has one other section in Europe, in the UK.
On 10 September 2015, former Münster chief of police Hubert Wimber was elected as chair of the German LEAP branch. Wimber is joined by five other high-standing founding members: member of the German Federal Parliament and left-wing drug policy spokesman Frank Tempel; famous Juvenile Court judge Andreas Müller; head of LEAP Europe and former MI5 officer Annie Machon; and former judge of the Federal High Court of Justice Wolfgang Neskovic. Before his retirement just over a year ago, Wimber, who has been committed to the liberalisation of the ban on cannabis for years, was denied participation in the inaugural meeting of LEAP by Ralf Jäger (SPD).
USA as an example
In 2002, LEAP was established in Medfort, Massachusetts by Jack A. Cole. After getting off to a slow start 13 years ago, the former undercover officer is now joined by many fellow campaigners, and is a long way to achieving his goal of shedding light on the negative consequences of the current drugs policy for the public, politicians and the media. At the same time, LEAP works to re-establish citizen’s respect for the work of the police, where this was lost due to their contribution to the enforcement of anti-drug laws. LEAP will work to reduce the many negative consequences of the War On Drugs, including the growing number of police officers involved in drug crimes. Above all, the members of LEAP want to demonstrate to their own colleagues that the high delinquency rates are more a consequence of the bans than the consumed substances themselves.
While LEAP is still finding its feet in Europe, most of the LEAP former law enforcers in the USA now have great influence in the current discussion regarding cannabis regulation. LEAP has in total 15,000 members. Most are based in the USA, but the members of the two European sections are kept in good company by the ‘good cops’ of the Costa Rican and Brazilian branches, and those of the branches in another 190 countries. LEAP provides speakers for political drug events in 35 US states and 16 countries. While the organisation is open to everyone, LEAP speakers and management must be active or former law enforcers, such as police officers, customs officers, border control officers, prison officers, public prosecutors or judges. Today, approximately 5,000 LEAP members have such a background or profession. For many professionals who have had to bat for the other side at some point during their career, the experience of the LEAP Executive Director, retired major Neill (Stanford) Franklin is all too familiar. As a young politician and undercover drugs officer, he was critical about the War On Drugs. When his colleague and good friend Corporal Ed Toatley was fatally shot during an undercover deal in Washington DC in 2000, he decided to voice his opinions and joined LEAP.
Conflict of interests
Most LEAP activists have actually left active service but, unlike in Germany, in the USA some members are still police officers by day (and night). Many LEAP members have even faced consequences for their membership under public sector employment law. Today, this sword of Damocles still hangs above the heads of officers who express their support for the re-legalisation of cannabis or the liberalisation of the drug market openly or even just to their colleagues before they retire or end their service. One of the most common cases of trouble resulting from expressing personal support for the War On Drugs and LEAP is that of Californian Border Controller Bryan Gonzalez. All he did was express his doubts about the point of the cannabis ban and mention LEAP, and his colleagues snitched on him to his superior. In the disciplinary hearing proceedings that followed it was found that Gonzalez’ views conflicted with the interests of his profession, and he was dismissed from the civil service. In 2011, a lawsuit supported by LEAP and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was finally rejected. Regardless, LEAP has grown prolifically since then, in the USA and beyond, and over the last four years, it played a key role in the successful cannabis-legalisation campaigns in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Washington State and Washington DC.
Following the suspension of his client Bryan Gonzalez in 2011, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona Daniel Pochoda commented,
More and more members of the law enforcement community are speaking out against failed drug policies, and they don’t give up their right to share their insight and engage in this important debate simply because they receive government paychecks.”
And he was proven right. Now let’s hope it doesn’t take long for LEAP to not only find its feet, but take great strides (or even leaps) in Europe.