07/28/17 Neil Franklin

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

We are ALL SUSPECTS! with Major Neill Franklin of LEAP & Jacob Sullum of Reason Magazine + DTN Editorial

Audio file


JULY 28, 2017


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi folks, thank you for joining us today on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I'm Dean Becker, I'm wanting to focus today on the fact that the drug war mentality, the perceptions that have been put forward over the years, have now created a situation where every American is a suspect, and I want to speak to a gentleman who has over the years delved deeply into this drug war. He's a senior editor with Reason Magazine, and has a great story out there today talking about this situation. I want to welcome Mister Jacob Sullum. Hello, Jacob.


DEAN BECKER: Jacob, this latest story of yours, Federal Appeals Court Castigates Kansas Cops for Pot Raid Triggered by Tea. Tell us about that story, please.

JACOB SULLUM: Well, this is a -- stems from a raid that happened back in 2012, where seven armed cops crashed into this home in the early morning, about 7:30am, and held a family, the Hartes, at gunpoint in their living room. So this man and a woman, and their two children, I think one of them was in seventh grade at the time, and the other one was in kindergarten. Held them at gunpoint for two and a half hours while they went through their house, looking for evidence of a marijuana grow that did not exist.

These people were not growing pot, they had never grown pot, they had nothing to do with pot, and they wondered after this happened, and the police found nothing, what was going on? And it actually took quite a bit of time and effort and money for them to begin to piece together what had happened. And it's all laid out in this recent appeals court decision.

Basically this stemmed from a publicity stunt that was planned by the local sheriff's office on 4/20, you know, the semi-official stoner's holiday. They were planning to raid a bunch of marijuana growers, and the reason they identified the Harts as marijuana growers is that Robert Harte, the father, had visited a gardening store in Kansas City, the Missouri part of Kansas City, and he had been observed by a Missouri State Police officer, who staked out the place, and took notes on various customers.

Now Harte was going there in order to purchase supplies for an indoor vegetable growing project for his son. It was supposed to be an educational horticultural project for his son. And they picked up a few things, and unbeknownst to them they were being observed by this police officer, who wrote down his name, his license plate, description of the car, enough information to trace him.

Now, he held onto that information for over seven months, and he ultimately -- so it wasn't exactly considered to be a public safety emergency. He passed it along to a sergeant in the sheriff's office in Kansas, where the Hartes live, who was planning to do this series of raids on April 20th. He didn't actually get the information until March 20th. So, but he already knew that he had a raid on April 20th, so within a month, they had to develop probable cause. All the evidence they had so far was that Robert Harte had visited this garden store.

Of course, a lot of people go to a garden store and they're not necessarily growing marijuana. So, what they did is, they didn't do much of an investigation, actually. They didn't look into the background of this couple, had they done so they would have found out that they were -- they had no criminal records, they were law-abiding, in fact they had been CIA employees with the highest possible security clearance. So it did not look like criminals, had they bothered to investigate this.

But they didn't. What they did was, they came by the house and they looked through their garbage on three separate occasions. And they pulled out the garbage to root through it. The first time they did this, the deputies found this wet, green plant matter, which they thought was innocuous and they just discarded it. Second time around, they found the same plant matter, and they suddenly decided it was suspicious. Now, you have to understand that the date of the raid, that they've already planned, they don't have a warrant for, it's already been set. So they really need to come up with probable cause.

So all of a sudden this plant matter was suspicious. They did a -- supposedly did a field test on it, that's a matter of dispute, whether they actually did the test. And supposedly it came -- the test came up positive for marijuana, specifically THC.

And so they -- then they came back a week later, they again, the garbage again, found the same wet vegetable matter, tested it again, and supposedly the test came up positive for marijuana. And with that, those two test results, which they -- there was no documentation of them, we just have to go by the -- what, the deputies word that they actually did the test. They, and the fact that the father had visited a gardening store. They got a warrant. And then so that's where the raid came from. So that's sort of cleared up the mystery of just how the, you know, these people came to be targeted, and held at gunpoint, while the cops ransacked their house looking for a marijuana grow that wasn't there.

And they, the Hartes sued the sheriff's department. They actually sued also the state cop who had taken down the information originally. They sued supervisors, they sued the county, and a few years ago -- two years ago, a federal judge dismissed the suit. He said there was nothing -- the police had done nothing wrong that they had any -- that the Hartes had any legal recourse to sue over, and that seemed to be the end of it.

But in fact, just this week, this appeals court, Seventh Circuit Appeals Court, said no, they had done -- the police had done plenty wrong, and they needed to at least -- the Hartes needed at least a chance to prove these allegations. So it's going to go forward. There might be a settlement, or it might actually go to trial. But if you read the accounts of, you know, how all this happened, it really is, I mean, it's comical on the one hand, because the cops are so ridiculously careless and incompetent.

And clearly, they didn't want -- it wasn't like, oh, let's take these innocent people and, you know, and embarrass them in front of everyone and inconvenience them and terrify them. You know, had they been able to perceive that this would be -- turn into the huge embarrassment that it was, that presumably they'd want to avoid it, so it really was genuine incompetence and carelessness, it seems to me, but of course it has very serious consequences for people.

So, it's a very scary experience, especially for kids, to be confronted by these armed men who've taken over your house, and searched through it. It's embarrassing, because all your neighbors see this happening and they assume you must be some kind of criminal, and before they thought you were good people, but now they have their doubts. Right? So, it has serious consequences for people, even if they don't end up actually, you know, being injured or killed, which sometimes happens with these raids.

There's always the danger of that. And so it's a real trauma that you've put these people through. So that part of it's not so funny. But the facts behind what led to the raid are really absurd, and especially absurd because this was all about a publicity stunt, it wasn't like, even if you believe in suppressing marijuana, this was not going to have any kind of impact on the marijuana trade. This was just about making it seem like the cops were doing their jobs by having these raids tied to 4/20.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jacob, I thank you for that. You know, I included, and your article talks about positive results can be obtained from vanilla, peppermint, ginger, eucalyptus, the list goes on and on. And my fair city of Houston just recently decided to stop using these field test kits, if you will, as justification for arrest. Now, I'm not sure how else they're making their determinations, but they have shown them, or agreed that these tests are totally unreliable, and this is still going on around the country to thousands of people every day, I would suppose. Your thought there, please.

JACOB SULLUM: Yes, I mean, the really shocking thing is that these tests, which are notoriously unreliable, are still being used all around the country, and in some cases they can actually result in a conviction if the person is pressured to plead guilty. So, something is discovered, it is alleged to be contraband, supposedly the field test shows it to be illegal drugs, and the person may be facing some serious time in prison, and be convinced, perhaps under bad advice from a public defender, to plead guilty.

So now you actually have a conviction, and you can go to prison based on something that is totally unreliable. There was an expose, it was done by ProPublica a while back, that looked at, there are no hard figures on this, but they estimated there are thousands of cases like that around the country, where people actually end up being convicted because of these faulty tests.

And this should be well known by now. The test itself, the one that they used in Kansas, has a warning on it, saying results from this should be deemed presumptive only, and not conclusive, and you should always confirm results by taking it to a lab and doing a lab test. In this case, the cops didn't bother to do that, even though it said to do it on the label. Had they done that, they would have discovered that this wet vegetable matter was in fact tea.


JACOB SULLUM: That Adlynn Harte, the mother, had bought, and not in fact marijuana, but as you mentioned, there is a whole host of organic, you know, plant matter that can test positive for marijuana with one of these tests. And it really, you know, it's basically just an excuse to manufacture probable cause. For somebody who's already suspected, this supposedly confirms the suspicion, but in fact it doesn't really in any meaningful way.

It's similar by the way to the way that drug detecting dogs are used, where, you know, a police officer pulls over somebody that they have some vague suspicion about, and they bring in a dog, and the handler suspects this person of being a drug trafficker, and oftentimes the dog will pick up on the cues about what he's supposed to do, right, which is alert to the car, because then you're rewarded for it.


JACOB SULLUM: That's, you know, he's trying to please his trainer, and, or, as with these field tests, dogs can react to things that aren't in fact contraband, but that give off similar odors to contraband. Or they can be reacting to some -- some other distraction. Right? So these dogs are, it's not clear unreliable they are, but they are not nearly as reliable as the Supreme Court seems to think they are. And so, this is another tool like the field test that police officers can use to confirm their pre-existing suspicions that they don't really have any solid evidence for, and this makes it clear, like, now they have solid evidence. But of course, they don't. It creates the illusion of probable cause.

DEAN BECKER: Now, you're right, Jacob, and it just comes back to, the drug war has given license to law enforcement to consider all of us to be suspects, because of, well, just such minor indications that we might be users. Your thought there, please.

JACOB SULLUM: Yeah, I mean, any kind of traffic stop, the Supreme Court has said, can be accompanied by a dog search, right, that's not -- that in itself is not considered to be a search, so the only limitation is do they have time to bring the dog in while they're doing their traffic stop. And of course a traffic stop can be done for -- basically at will, you know, because there are so many different possible violations that a police officer can allege, you know, minor things like, did you signal properly when you changed lanes, or were you speeding a little bit, did you come to a complete stop at a stop sign, you know, are all of your tail lights functioning properly, and of course, these kinds of situations sometimes result in the motorist being dead at the end of it.

But there's lots of reasons, so basically a cop can pull you over if he wants to, right? So that's not really any kind of test. And once he's pulled you over, now he can bring in this drug dog, and if the dog alerts, which may or may not mean there's actually any contraband there, they now have license to search your car, and perhaps they will find something that's actually totally innocuous. There was one case in Pennsylvania involving a guy who had this powder that's used to make homemade soap, and the field test they did supposedly indicated that it was cocaine, and he actually spent, I think it was a few weeks in jail before they did a lab test, that found that it was in fact what he said all along, which is soap. Right?


JACOB SULLUM: So, these, you know, the constant suspicion, the constant desire to find people who are drug traffickers, especially because you can take their property, that's the other motive here, aside from having the arrest to your credit, is that you find any cash or any valuables, you can now take that as, you know, presumptively connected to drug crime. And so that gives cops an incentive. There's very little downside for them.

Rarely do you have a lawsuit like this, where there's a danger of police officers actually being held personally liable. That almost never happens, so for cops, there's really no downside to it. It makes them look good, it makes them look like they're -- it makes them look like they're doing their jobs, and there's money in it for them, too, at least for their state or city that they work for.


JACOB SULLUM: So, why not do it?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, once again, friends, we've been speaking with Mister Jacob Sullum, he's senior editor with Reason Magazine. You can check out his story about the Federal Appeals Court Castigates Kansas Cops by going to Reason.com.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Yellow eyes, vomiting, black tarry stools, cloudy urine, fever with chills, sores, ulcers, or white spots on lips and mouth, unusual bleeding. Time's up! The answer: Another FDA approved product, acetaminophen.

Well, once again I have the privilege of speaking to one of my bosses, Mister Neill Franklin, a man with decades of experience as a law enforcement officer who now heads up Law Enforcement Action Partnership, formerly known as LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. And I want to get his opinions, if he will, on this, this eternal war on those who use drugs and how it makes all of us a suspect, and with that I want to welcome Neill Franklin. How are you doing, sir?

NEILL FRANKLIN: I'm good, Dean, man, and thanks for having me on your show, always I consider it an honor to come on your show.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you, sir, I'm coming up on 16 years I've been doing this, and you know, Neill, we have this situation, everybody's got a really good camera in their phone these days, and we're seeing more and more instances of, I've got to call it what I see it as, police brutality, people, cops, afraid, I think, of people out on the road, and really escalating the violence and the encounters, and I think at the heart of that is this idea that they might have drugs in their car, and if they have drugs they might have guns, and so all of us are a suspect. Would you address that for me, please, sir?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Well, you know, Dean, people who use drugs are very dangerous people. So, listeners, please do not take that as a serious comment, I'm being facetious here. Unfortunately that's where we have arrived at as a society, and especially in the policing community, with the rhetoric that has been communicated to us as a nation over the past few decades, that people who use drugs or have anything to do with the drugs that we have deemed illicit, oh my god, are thought to be dangerous people, and that's the farthest thing from the truth.

Don't get me wrong, here, unfortunately people who are players in the, in the very lucrative drug market, you know, now those few people, and I say few people because they are few, but those are the ones that, because of the nature of this illicit business under the policies of prohibition, we have created violent, a very violent market place involving the cartels, involving the local gangs and crews within our own communities. We have created the foundation for violence, which does not have to be, because of our policies. So, but as it relates to people who use drugs, it's farther -- the farthest thing from the truth. These are not violent people.

However, Dean, you mentioned how this war on drugs has pretty much made everyone a suspect. I want to give you a clear example of this belief. Look at Baltimore right now. Baltimore just recently underwent a Department of Justice investigation on the heels of the death of Freddie Gray, the young man who died while being transported in a police van. That investigation revealed some very alarming things. They looked at about four and a half years of policing history in Baltimore right before Freddie Gray's death, and they discovered some things. They discovered, after going through the police records, that there were 300,000 mainly black men and women had been stopped on the streets in Baltimore, and of that 300,000 plus, only 3.7 percent of those stops resulted in a citation being issued or someone being arrested.

That means that there was probable cause, in a sense, maybe not in all those cases, but, there was probable cause for that arrest or for that citation to be issued. What about the other 96.3 percent of those stops? What were they about? I'll tell you what they were about. They were about police looking for drugs, believing that everyone on that street is a suspect. They're about unconstitutional searches in the middle of the street, some of them being strip searches, of not just men but also women, where cavity searches were done.

But that's not the end of the story, Dean. Check this out.


NEILL FRANKLIN: So, that, those numbers I just gave you came about from the Department of Justice investigators looking at concrete evidence, looking at paperwork, looking at documentation, looking at the tickets that were issued and the arrest reports that were done. But then they had, for some reason they questioned those numbers, and they went back and they decided to look at the radio transmissions, and do a sampling of the radio transmissions, and they realized that a very, very large portion of the actual stops were not being documented.

So, doing this sampling of the radio transmissions, they were able to arrive at a conclusion that the actual number of stops of citizens on the streets were actually seven times greater, Dean.


NEILL FRANKLIN: So, that 300,000 plus now goes to 2.1 million stops. Now, of that 2.1 million stops during that four and a half year period, the tickets and the citation, that raw number, which I mentioned before, the 3.7 percent of the 300,000, that number stays the same. However, that means that the percentage of tickets being written or arrests being made now drops dramatically, and now goes from 3.7 percent of 300,000 stops, to 0.5 percent of 2.1 million stops within that period of time.


NEILL FRANKLIN: My god, 99.5 percent of 2.1 million stops within that time period are absolutely questionable according to violation -- being violations of our Constitution of these United States. Dean, there's a crystal clear example of everybody being suspected of being involved in the drug trade or being a drug dealer, or of just being a bad person walking the streets within our nation.

DEAN BECKER: I don't really know how to respond to that, Neill, other than, well, I don't know how to respond to that, it's amazing.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Dean, there is only one response to that: it has to end.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir.

NEILL FRANKLIN: That's the only response. It has to end, and the only way that it can end is that we have to end the prohibition of drugs. That means we need a regulatory system, that means for adults, they need to be able to go out and through whatever that system is, there needs to be a legal process for them to access what they need under a legal framework, so that we end the violence, so that we end the unconstitutional stops, so that we break up this and end the stigma that we have placed upon people who do use drugs, and that we return to a place of improved, greatly improved public safety.

And you know what? It's going to cost us a hell of a lot less, money that we need for so many more things, such as healthcare for our mentally disabled folks, or healthcare for our returning soldiers, you know, coming from war overseas, who are debilitated, who have other, so many issues to deal with, so that we can properly provide services to the many kids who don't have food, who need healthcare, who need other critical services, and many of these critical services that they need are a direct result of this broken criminal justice system in this country, which involves the war on drugs, where we have put so many family members and heads of families in prison, leaving these kids unprotected and in a state of confusion and in a state of despair and hopelessness.

DEAN BECKER: There you have it, my friends. I want you to hear the words of Major Neill Franklin, who, as I said, served decades, serving Baltimore, Maryland, and just realize that you can help make that change. You can contact your elected officials, phone them, email them, visit them, write them a letter, let them know that you agree with Mister Neill Franklin and that you want this madness to end. Neill, I want to thank you sir for once again just knocking it out of the park. That was Major Neill Franklin, head of Law Enforcement Action Partnership. They're out there on the web at LEAP.cc.

The following is a Drug Truth Network editorial:

We have no respect for those who believe in the drug war, those that think this second of America's feel good prohibitions is a good policy worth pursuing for eternity, worth destroying the futures of millions of kids, each year, because we are afraid that these drugs might destroy their future.

The overdose deaths are now, as they always have been, mostly caused by rebellion, and confusion, and by not knowing what's in the bag. If these kids get busted, then follows a never-ending battle over morals, that start with parents, bosses, wives, husbands, kids, the church, the cops, the DA, the judges, the probation officer, the parole officer, the treatment provider, fees, fines, ankle bracelets, and on and on it goes.

So, these authorities, after judging you to be a gross and obvious sinner, may take your children, your cash, car, house, and all your worldly goods through asset forfeiture, and then once out from behind bars, it's go get yourself housing, an education, credit, and a job, and pay us for protecting you from yourself.

Failing that obligation, the fines increase as does the oversight as the young person with this eternal black mark on their life and livelihood fails and flails, until the the only -- the only job he can find is with the world's largest multilevel marketing organization, the black market in drugs.

With the tiny amounts needed of fentany and carfentanyl, hundreds of times more powerful than pure heroin, and thus now so easily smuggled to the US, and so now they distribute fake pills, fake powders, and the truly dangerous and deadly horrifically named synthetic marijuana, and we have but to ask ourselves, what is the benefit of empowering terrorists, cartels, and thousands and thousands of violent US gangs to the tune of $394 billion a year? Just so half of that amount can go to corrupt border guards, customs agents, Ford Motor Company employees, judges, DAs, cops, the list is endless.

The cops and the judges and all these folks know this prohibition is a clusterflop, but it pays the bills, funds the pensions, and is the way they've been doing it for nigh unto a hundred years. There is no benefit to drug war, none, tis but a pipe dream of men who died long ago, the modern day adherents of this policy know full well the truth of this matter, just as we do. They are complicit, fully aware, they are 180 degrees off track and yet they persist in embracing this abomination, this lie, for cash, for votes, and thus stand forever in support of the guns and tactics that threaten every American. Guns, carelessly wielded by cops.

Because of drug prohibition, we are all potential victims. We're all now considered to be criminal suspects. Maybe carrying drugs. Subject to a flailing and ugly pussified law enforcement mentality. We are all obviously and forever in great peril, thanks to the drug war.

What will it take to motivate
You to speak of what's before your eyes?

Listeners, you know by now I'll do anything to educate and embolden you to the horror of this drug war, and to remind you that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacific Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.