SSDP2014 Keynote: Neill Franklin, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Keynote address at SSDP2014: the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Conference + Lobby Day by Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. About Neill Franklin, courtesy of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s website (make a donation here):
Major Neill Franklin is a 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department. During his time on the force, he held the position of commander for the Education and Training Division and the Bureau of Drug and Criminal Enforcement. Major Franklin instituted and oversaw the very first Domestic Violence Investigative Units for the Maryland State Police. After 23 years of dedicated service to the Maryland State Police, he was recruited in 2000 by the Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department to reconstruct and command Baltimore’s Education and Training Section.
Early in his career, Neill served as a narcotics agent with the Maryland State police, focusing on everything from high-level drug dealers in the Washington suburbs to the guy growing one marijuana plant on his balcony. Neill was proud of his work and the hundreds of arrests he executed. “I had been taught that the people who use and sell drugs are trash, and that we needed to put those people behind bars forever.”
But two people permanently changed his steadfast belief in fighting the drug war. The first was Kurt Schmoke, who declared while he was the sitting mayor of Baltimore that the drug war was not working. Schmoke explained that fighting a war on drugs was counteproductive and created excessive violence. This was a turning point for Neill, who began to research and evaluate his own experiences in law enforcement. “We worked in predominantly white areas, yet most of our cases and lock ups were minorities. There were very few cases in the outlying areas that involved whites,” he says.
Not long after Mayor Schmoke’s announcement, Neill’s close friend, Corporal Ed Toatley, was killed in Washington, DC while making a drug deal as an undercover agent. “When Ed was assassinated in October 2000, that is when I really made the turn. That’s when I decided to make my views public,” Neill explains. He became executive director of LEAP in 2010.
When not working, Neill volunteers his time by serving on many boards that include Children 1st, the Faith Based Community Council on Law Enforcement and Intelligence, the Place of Grace Church, Anne Arundel Community College Criminal Justice Advisory Board, and board president for TurnAround, Inc. (domestic violence, sexual assault victim advocate providing counseling and shelter services). Major Franklin is married and has one son. He is also very active in his church, The Place of Grace, where he serves as a board member.
Video by Side Pocket Images.