Major Neill Franklin (Ret.)
Keep Police Officers Safe: Stop the Back the Blue Act
Police officers have a difficult and dangerous job. During my 34-year police career with the Baltimore Police and Maryland State Police Departments, I lost my close friend, Corporal Ed Toatley, and numerous other friends who wore the blue. I know the pain of losing a close comrade to street violence as well as anyone and I remain committed to improving safety for my fellow police officers. That’s why I’m opposing a well-intentioned but divisive bill called “Back the Blue Act,” which I believe will have the opposite result of keeping officers on the street safe. The Back the Blue Act makes any assault on an officer a federal crime with a mandatory minimum sentence. But here’s the thing: assaulting a police officer is already a crime in every state and already carries strict penalties set by local legislatures. This bill won’t deter individuals from assaulting police just by making a federal case out of these crimes. Instead, the bill would make us less safe by pushing an “us vs. them” mentality and worsening police-community relations. What kept me safe was not any particular law but rather the trust, respect, and relationships that my fellow officers and I were able to build in the community. Mandatory sentences won’t deter the acts of violence that I had to be on guard for as a police officer. Back the Blue also takes away local authority by requiring the use of new sentences created by politicians in Washington and diverts federal resources from stopping the most complex and serious crimes like international child trafficking, money laundering rings, and other cases that are too complex, challenging, far-reaching, or sensitive for state and local prosecutors. While assault on an officer is a serious crime, it is a crime that can be easily handled by state and local prosecutors working with existing state laws. Add your name to my petition to let your members of Congress know that that while Back the Blue might sound like a good bill, it’s going to have unintended consequences that make the police officers less safe and take away resources from federal prosecutors. Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Make the NYPD Adopt On-Body Cameras
Have you seen the video of an unarmed man named Eric Garner being put in a chokehold by an officer of the New York Police Department? As a 34-year veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, and once commander of both police academies, I was appalled to watch that video and learn that Eric died just moments later. It's deeply upsetting to watch a 43-year-old father of six say "I can't breathe" over and over, but the officer doesn't let go -- even though officers are not allowed to use chokeholds. Eric's death is part of a tremendous rise in racial profiling, unconstitutional searches, and violent forms of misconduct from some members of the NYPD. There is a simple way to make a dramatic change in police misconduct: require officers to wear on-body cameras that record their interactions. I can't help but think that if the officers involved with Eric were wearing on-body-cameras that they knew would later be reviewed by superiors, they would have acted much differently. Eric Garner might still be alive today. Other police departments are using on-body cameras with amazing success. In the first year after the Rialto Police Department in California adopted the cameras in 2012, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent compared with the last year. More importantly, the use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent. Last year, a US District Court judge ordered that NYPD test wearing on-body cameras, but former Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed back strongly against the idea, and the department has yet to adopt the technology. But now New York has a new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who made a campaign promise to cut down on police violence. Requiring on-body cameras would be a key way for him to keep that promise. On-body cameras protect communities from police misconduct, and they also protect the officers themselves from violence. This is a system that benefits everyone, and will help restore community trust in the NYPD. I have more than three decades of experience serving as a police officer and training new officers. I strongly believe that this is one of the best possible ways to prevent senseless deaths like Eric Garner's as well as violence and false accusations.