Re: the piece co-authored by Peter Franchot and Dr. Enid Neptune, I respect the opinions and concerns of the authors. They assert that this is “a social justice issue” and cite the 1960s marketing practices of the tobacco industry. We cannot ignore that today, Black and brown communities are disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration, as well as local and statewide police violence, use of force, and fatalities. The authors are not former law enforcement and thus do not express an awareness of, nor concern for, the criminal implications of Senate Bill 177 (SB177) and House Bill 134 (HB134).
During my 34 years in the Maryland State Police, Transit Police Force and the Baltimore Police Department, I’ve seen bans and prohibitions on adult products result in increased negative and counterproductive interactions between law enforcement and communities of color. I’ve seen police reform measures be undermined, rather than strengthened, due to the enforcement of such bans.
Local police departments are making progress in the area of police reform, but there is still work to be done when 2021 Maryland police violence reports show that our state’s Black residents make up 63% of those killed by police but only 31% of Marylanders are Black; when 91% of police incidents involving force were targeted toward Black residents.
I am representing myself and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), of which I am the past executive director and current board member. And our opposition to SB177 and HB134 is on the basis that these bills are unjust, unscientific and reactionary policies that would have negative public safety outcomes. We don’t need another Eric Garner, who was stopped by police while selling loose cigarettes illegally and died in police custody, and we certainly don’t need another Freddie Gray.
Major Neill Franklin (retired)
Veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department
Former executive director of LEAP