Recently I once again celebrated National Police Week, a week recognizing those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others. It's held in Washington D.C.each year, and includes a moving ceremony and vigil at the Police Officer's Memorial. I have not been to the ceremony but have visited the memorial each time I have been in our capital to find the names of the many officers I knew whose funerals I have attended. Like visiting the Vietnam Memorial I have been moved to silence to see the names of so many officers who lost their lives throughout the years.
At one time I was assigned to be a member of my department's Honor Guard. This assignment took me to too many police funerals throughout the years. These were always gut wrenching, no matter whether I personally knew the officer or not. Today the sound of bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace," and the staccato of the three-volley rifle salute still impacts me. It makes me realize how precious life is, how fortunate I was during my career, and makes me proud to have belonged to a profession whose members place others above themselves.
Every year since my retirement I have gone to the National Law Enforcement Memorial website to review deaths in the line of duty over the past year. Each time there are too many peace officers listed who died because of the drug war. This year is no different. The roll of names this year includes police officers who could have been our neighbors, our family or our friends. They include men and women from across the nation, including Puerto Rico, who laid down their lives all in an effort to enforce our drug laws.
There are those from my own law enforcement community who question my advocacy for the end of drug prohibition. They accuse me of dishonoring the deaths of these and other officers by questioning our policy. Yet I would ask them to look at the statistics since 2003. It lists 113 officers killed in the ongoing effort to achieve an ideological goal of attaining a "drug-free America." The irony here is that America, in spite of our collective law enforcement effort and over a trillion dollars spent, continues to have the highest licit and illicit drug prevalence rate in the world.
It is these deaths that haunt me, the waste of human lives and capital, the families ripped apart from their loved ones -- to what end? I would tell them that just as Americans voiced their concerns by opposing our wars, but supporting our troops, I feel the same way about our drug policy. It is because I love and respect my profession that I care enough to dissent when I see a policy endangering their lives for little gain.
In 2011 Dean Scoville wrote a piece on why dissent is difficult in law enforcement. This was written in direct response to criminal justice professionals who were terminated because of their viewpoint on the failure of our drug policy and their connection to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He so eloquently stated:
"Well, I think we should talk about law enforcement. I think we should discuss every damn thing that comes across our desk and on our radar. We should continually ask ourselves if what we're doing is the right thing or not. We should wonder if established practices are necessarily best practices".
My dissent is not anti-police, it is about using those skills my law enforcement career gave me to question and evaluate what works, what doesn't, and to figure out how to make our communities, which include our law enforcement officers, safer. Until we critically analyze our drug enforcement laws and policies we will continue to see men and women lose their lives for a cause that only 7 percent of Americans believe is a success. Until then we will continue to see a roll each year of officers such as this and wonder what we could have done to prevent not just their deaths, but the countless other deaths yet to come.
Master Police Officer Jared Daniel Francom
Officer Martoiya Lang
Detective David White
Police Chief Michael Maloney
Agent Victor Soto Velez
Sergeant Wilfredo Ramos Nieves
And Terrel Horne III
By Sgt. George Hann, L.A.P.D. (RETIRED)
I never dreamed it would be me my name for all eternity recorded here at this hallowed place alas, My name, No more my face "In the Line of Duty" I hear them say my family now the price will pay, my folded flag stained with their tears we only had those few short years, the badge no longer on my chest I sleep now in eternal rest my sword I pass to those behind and pray they keep this thought in mind I never dreamed it would be me and with heavy heart and bended knee I ask for all here from the past Dear God, let my name be the last.