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Veteran police officer Neill Franklin pushes back on recent comments by Maryland’s Republican Governor, and says harsh sentences are not effective in reducing crime
LARRY HOGAN: This seems to be like the most pro-criminal group of legislators I’ve ever seen.
JAISAL NOOR: Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan was on the offensive this week, attacking Democrats who opposed policies like arming police and schools, passing a 15 dollar minimum wage, increasing school funding, while not supporting his proposal for the penalties for tougher gun crimes, including a mandatory minimum of five years in prison for the first gun offense.
LARRY HOGAN: We have a bill to try to push tough sentencing for repeat violent offenders who have multiple times been convicted of committing a felony with a gun. And it’s not getting any traction. We have over 300 murders in the city. We have violent crime on the streets. And to say that we don’t want to do anything about the people who are committing those violent crimes…
JAISAL NOOR: What impact will all these policies have on the lives of Marylanders? Joining us to discuss this is Neill Franklin, retired 34 year veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, serves as the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership.
So Neall, we just heard some of the recent comments of Governor Larry Hogan attacking Democrats that, like we just said, they opposed arming police in schools, they supported the 15 hour minimum wage, which is on the governor’s desk, and they didn’t support the governor’s proposal to have a five year mandatory minimum for the first gun offense. Second offense would be 10 years. Give us your response as a former law enforcement veteran.
NEILL FRANKLIN: So just so everyone knows, these are my personal thoughts and opinions regarding this. First of all, it’s a political season. I mean, my personal belief is that he’s preparing himself for a potential run against President Trump. So now he has to begin to appeal to the Republican base. And it’s the same old rhetoric, let’s get tough on crime, tough on criminals, being against the minimum wage and those things that are typically objections on the right.
JAISAL NOOR: And increased school funding.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Well, absolutely. We know that mandatory minimums don’t work. We’ve been down this road over and over and over again. Leave the tough sentencing to the judges, and if you think judges aren’t doing the right thing, then meet with them, educate them, give them more information. But that’s where it belongs. We have many judges who are part of the law enforcement action partnership, and one of the things that they complain about are mandatory minimums. It doesn’t afford them the ability to take a unique look at specific circumstances surrounding a particular case and then to render the proper judgment. That’s their job. Let’s not take their jobs away from them. That’s why they’re there, and that’s why we have these distinct, separate branches of government.
What we’re hearing from the governor is typical from Republicans regarding getting tough on crime, tough on criminals, mandatory minimums, again, we know that doesn’t work, pushing back against minimum wage. It’s all the typical rhetoric. Bottom line with me is let’s–and don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Democrats are doing everything right, because they’re not. They’re not paying attention to those foundational issues of housing, of education, of health, of mental health. And when I say they’re not paying the proper attention to it, I’m talking about long term solutions. Yeah, you see a little program here, a little effort there, little program there, but there’s no comprehensive, long term, generational, 10 to 15, 20 year plan to deal with these issues. So you’ve got to have that. You’ve got to have it.
JAISAL NOOR: And how much does underfunded schools, low wages, the drug war, lack of stable, affordable housing, how much does that contribute to things like violent crime in Baltimore?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Well, everything that you mentioned and more is absolutely critical. Because number one, you’ve got to have some sort of economic empowerment. You’ve got to have a way for people to make a living. Because if not, they’re going to find that side hustle, whether it’s selling DVDs, whether it’s selling drugs, whether it’s who knows with these tobacco bans coming up. They’re going to find a way to do something to make some money, and more than likely, it’s going to be illegal.
JAISAL NOOR: And I want to get your response to a recent Tweet made by the Baltimore City FOP. They said, “As the levels of violence in Baltimore escalates, we wonder how long we can be asked to play touch football when the other teams play tackle.” And they’re talking about the consent decree and other unfair restrictions they feel that are being placed upon them in Baltimore City. What’s your response to that? You were the former head trainer of the Baltimore City Police Department.
NEILL FRANKLIN: First of all, this isn’t a game. We’re talking about lives here. And as it relates to policing–and I think we’re going to see this with the new commissioner, Mike Harrison–constitutional policing, you can still be about the business of policing, and you can do it according to the Constitution. There’s a proper way for engaging citizens, there’s a proper way for finding the people who are carrying the guns and using the guns and committing acts of violence.
We can target those people who are most disruptive in a violent way in our communities without doing this saturation, this blanket policing where we’re just, hey, we snatch up enough people, if we stop and interact with enough people, you know what, we’re going to find the people who have the guns, we’re going to find the people that do this. Well see, when you go about your business that way, then you’re going to piss off the people who aren’t disruptive, you’re going to piss off just about everyone in a community.
If you want people to give you information about who’s carrying the guns and who’s doing the shootings and who’s committing the homicides and all the other dirt, you’ve got to have good relationships. You’ve got to put police officers in those communities who are there on a particular post in a particular neighborhood who can develop relationships, who know how to do that, who go about doing that, who gain the trust of people, and they’ll voluntarily give you the information that you need to solve crimes and go after the people who are wreaking havoc in their neighborhoods. They don’t want people shooting in their neighborhoods, but if they don’t trust you wearing the badge and the uniform, it will continue. The violence will continue, and they’ll just deal it on their own.
JAISAL NOOR: And finally, the last time we had you on a couple months ago, we were talking about a new report that you were quoted in about how the levels of disproportionate weed arrests in Baltimore targeting African Americans, about a week or so after that interview, the State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said she’s no longer going to be prosecuting these cases, but the Baltimore Police Department has said we’re going to keep making these arrests. I want to end with your thoughts on that.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Marilyn Mosby on this issue is forward-looking. She sees the writing on the wall. She knows that this is ending across this country, and it’s ending very quickly. She also understands what came out of that Department of Justice investigation about the unconstitutional policing in the city. She knows, as well as most of us know, that marijuana is the number one tool being used by law enforcement to stop and frisk people out here. And many times, yeah, they may smell marijuana, but if they don’t, how can you refute that? So it’s something that needs to go.
She’s not the only one across this country. We have Rachel Rollins in the Boston area who’s doing the same thing. We have the D.A. out of Philadelphia, he’s on board as well. So I think it’s time for other people to catch up, to catch up with Marilyn Mosby on this, and let’s do away with what she’s talking about here, again, which leads to unconstitutional policing practices. And let’s move forward, let’s not stay where we are or go backward. Let’s move forward. And that’s what she’s doing. It makes sense.
JAISAL NOOR: All right. Neill Franklin, always a pleasure to have you on, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, 34 year police veteran, including State Police and head trainer of the Baltimore City Police Department. So everything you’re saying here comes from an informed place of reference.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely. And I think we’re going to see good things out of Mike Harrison. I hope that the citizens give him a chance. Not just give him a chance, but work with him.
JAISAL NOOR: He’s the new police commissioner.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes, he’s confirmed now, the new police commissioner for Baltimore City from New Orleans. And I think he’s going to do a great job as long as he gets the support that he needs to do that.
JAISAL NOOR: All right, Neill. Thanks so much for joining us and thank you for watching The Real News Network.