TIME Marijuana

Marijuana Reform Activists Push for Change with DEA Head

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.
James Lawler Duggan—Reuters DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.

And the resignation of Chief of Administration Michele Leonhart offers the chance for change

Marijuana legalization advocates are excited about the departure of Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, whom they long considered an obstruction in their goal of reforming the nation’s drug laws.

“We are happy to see her go,” says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “She’s a career drug warrior at a time when we’ve decided the ‘War on Drugs’ is an abject failure.”

Leonhart has been at the DEA for 35 years and served as the top dog since 2007. Though the recent scandal involving agents soliciting sex from prostitutes is what will likely most clearly tarnish her reputation, her position on drug policy has led marijuana reform activists to call for her resignation, says says Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Franklin, a veteran of the Maryland state police, calls her position on marijuana reform “archaic.”

Leonhart has been a major hurdle in the effort to reconsider marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which could pave the way for more research into the health benefits of the drug. In 2011, the agency again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the agency spent about $100 million in 2012 alone on enforcement regarding medical marijuana laws.

“Leonhart opposed medical marijuana, she opposed sentencing reform, she opposed pretty much everything that Obama was doing and for that matter everything Congress was doing,” says Bill Piper, the director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Drug Policy Alliance is one of several drug and marijuana policy organizations that have previously called for Leonhart’s removal. Following a speech in which Leonhart was critical of Obama’s assertion that smoking marijuana was no more harmful that drinking alcohol, the Marijuana Policy Project and over 47,000 citizens called for her to resign. A Drug Policy Alliance petition called for her removal following revelations that the DEA had been tracking citizens’ phone calls for decades. Organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws have also called for her resignation.

Though who will be filling in for Leonhart isn’t yet clear, activists say her replacement should be more supportive of ongoing reform initiatives, including reducing mass incarceration and taking the health impact of drugs into consideration when formulating policy. What’s more, Piper says, her removal could lead the Obama administration to reschedule marijuana before the President leaves office.

“This offers a good opportunity for marijuana reform to move forward quicker than it has been moving,” Piper says.

More than that, though, it could signal and even steeper change to policy regarding the enforcement of drug laws. As more states consider legalizing marijuana in some form—23 states have legalized medical use and four have given the green light to toking up recreationally. Six additional states could consider legalization during the 2016 election. As the nation’s stance on that shifts, so too should its approach to drug enforcement, advocates say.

“Within the next 10 years, I see massive drug policy reform and therefore really an end to the DEA,” Franklin says. The new leader, he says, should approach the role as if he or she is “dismantling a decommissioned battleship and selling the pieces for scrap metal.”

“For most part, the DEA exists because they’re enforcing prohibition,” he adds. “I believe we’re moving away from prohibition and more toward health.”

TIME Terrorism

Cops Shot Too Soon in Boston Bombing Manhunt, Report Finds

"Weapons discipline was lacking" during manhunt and standoff, report says

A long-awaited government report on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings praised law enforcement for their quick and effective response to the fatal attack, but noted that officers who cornered alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a boat several days later may have fired on him too soon.

The report is mostly a play-by-play of the bombing and subsequent manhunt from April 15 to 19, 2013. Much of the report details the effective coordination of law enforcement, medical personnel, marathon officials and hospital staff. For example, all the patients who went to the hospital survived their injuries, and medical tents at the finish line of the marathon were instrumental in providing on-site medical care.

But the report also details some areas for improvement, including in how careful police are when firing their guns. The report noted that “weapons discipline was lacking,” both during the firefight with the Tsarnaev brothers and during the standoff with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the boat on April 19. In that standoff, police opened fire on the boat after hearing a gunshot that they believed came from Tsarnaev, but actually came from a fellow police officer, who had fired inappropriately, the report found.

There was also an incident when officers fired on a suspicious-looking unmarked black truck that was actually driven by plainclothes officers, who were both unhurt. The report warned that “each of these incidents created a dangerous crossfire situation.”

While many different teams worked quickly and efficiently to keep Boston safe, the report also noted that there was room for improvement in coordination between city agencies, which “created confusion at times.” The report recommended that each city agency have a designated emergency representative to coordinate with other agencies, and that the city develop a more unified emergency response policy for the future.

Another area for improvement was in hospital evidence collection. The report said that hospital personnel were “intimidated” by the heavily armed police officers questioning victims and witnesses, and that there was not a streamlined procedure for gathering evidence from survivors at the hospital.

Also, the interlocking rack barriers that kept spectators from interfering with the marathon proved to be major obstacles for first responders. The report recommends the city look into alternative crowd control techniques that could be more easily disassembled in an emergency situation.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Is the Taliban’s fracturing a sign of its demise or a possible turn to a more lethal strategy?

By Sundarsan Raghavan in the Washington Post

2. To fight cybercrime, President Obama needs Silicon Valley.

By Katie Benner in Bloomberg View

3. The FDA needs updated systems to review drugs — made from our own cells — that target cancer and more.

By Peter W. Huber in City Journal

4. Our high incarceration rate no longer reduces crime.

By Lauren-Brooke Eisen in USA Today

5. Better than an action movie: Catch a college lecture on your next commercial flight.

By Kim Clark in Money

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

Over 570 Arrested in Super Bowl Sex Traffic Sting

Hundreds busted for soliciting sex

Correction appended

A two-week nationwide sex trafficking sting that coincided with the Super Bowl snared several hundred men seeking to buy sex, and almost two dozen pimps.

A total of 570 would-be “johns”—men who hire prostitutes—and 23 pimps were arrested during the annual “National Day of Johns” sting orchestrated by Cook County, Ill. Sheriff Thomas Dart, which involved 37 law enforcement agencies in 17 states.

Around two-thirds (64%) of the “johns” arrested for soliciting prostitutes were answering fake Backpage.com ads, and 7% were responding to fake Craigslist ads. Almost 3,000 would-be purchasers of sex have been arrested in nine similar operations since the program was started in 2011, but Sheriffs said the 2015 sting was the largest and most successful yet.

“Law enforcement is beginning to realize that arresting the girls over and over again is never going to effectively address prostitution,” said Sheriff Dart. “If there were no johns, there would be no prostitution. It’s not a victimless crime and johns need to be held responsible for their role in exacerbating the sex trade.” 68 victims were recovered in this sting, including 14 juveniles.

Dart says he hopes national sting operations can help raise awareness about sex trafficking and dissuade would-be-johns from buying sex. “Campaigns like this send such a strong message to these guys that the risk of solicitation is just not worth it,” he said.

The Super Bowl has long been a hub for trafficking and prostitution. In a separate incident, Hall of Famer and NFL Network Analyst Warren Sapp was arrested Monday morning after allegedly soliciting and assaulting a prostitute in Phoenix after the Super Bowl. He has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL Network.

Correction: This article originally misidentified the location of Cook County. It is in Illinois.

TIME technology

Police Are Pressuring Google to Turn Off Waze’s Cop-Tracking Feature

They're worried about attacks on officers

Police are lobbying Google to disable a feature on an app that warns drivers when cops are nearby, saying it could lead to more attacks on officers.

Waze is one of the technology industry’s most popular apps with 50 million users in 200 countries, CBS News reports. The software uses GPS and social networking to give drivers’ real-time traffic alerts and warnings about congestion, car accidents, speed traps and weather conditions.

The app also marks where police are stationed on maps.

Sheriffs are worried the app could be used by would-be police killers to stalk their whereabouts.

There are no known incidents of attackers using Waze in this way but in the wake of several police shootings, law enforcement groups want the feature turned off.

Google has declined to comment on the campaign.

[CBS News]

TIME Crime

The Number of Police Officers Killed by Firearms Jumped by 56% in 2014

Police salute during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem outside the Christ Tabernacle Church at the start of the funeral service for slain NYPD officer Ramos in the Queens borough of New York
© Mike Segar— Reuters Police salute during the playing of the U.S. national anthem outside the Christ Tabernacle Church in New York City at the start of the funeral service for slain New York Police Department officer Rafael Ramos on Dec. 27, 2014

Total officer deaths also rose

The number of U.S. law-enforcement officers killed by firearm-related incidents jumped by 56% in 2014, an annual report has found.

According to the report, released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) on Tuesday, 50 officers were killed by firearms, up from 32 in 2013.

In total, there were 126 officer fatalities throughout the year, a 24% increase from 2013 when 102 officers were killed.

After firearms, traffic-related incidents were the second leading cause of officer deaths in 2014, killing 49 officers.

With ambush attacks resulting in 15 deaths this year, NLEOMF chairman Craig Floyd expressed concern that antigovernment sentiment in the country was influencing individuals to carry out attacks on police officers.

“Enough is enough. We need to tone down the rhetoric and rally in support of law enforcement and against lawlessness,” he said.

TIME Law Enforcement

FBI Inquiry Finds Rampant Mishandling of Evidence

An internal probe found the bureau is holding two tons more drugs than records showed

An internal review of the FBI’s evidence handling procedures found a system rife with serious errors, according to a new report, including evidence mislabeled, mishandled or lost altogether, and in every region of the United States.

The survey of more than 41,000 pieces of evidence found the FBI holding less money but more guns and drugs than records indicated, the New York Times reports. Officials say most problems are the result of the FBI’s move in 2012 from a paper-based to a digital accounting system. The review could complicate criminal prosecutions throughout the U.S.

Read more at the Times

TIME Crime

Thousands Rally Against Police Brutality in Washington and New York City

In Washington, DC, New York City and around the country, Americans staged protests over the deaths of unarmed citizens by police

Demonstrators numbering in the tens of thousands marched on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and in New York City on Saturday, as well as other cities across the U.S., to protest the killings of unarmed black men by police officers.

In the nation’s capital, the families of black men killed by police, including relatives of Staten Island resident Eric Garner, Ferguson, Mo. teenager Michael Brown, and Cleveland, Ohio 12-year-0ld Tamir Rice and others, joined civil rights groups and other demonstrators at the Justice For All march. The marchers called for an end to police killings and for law enforcement who kill unarmed citizens to be held to account for their actions.

In New York City, protestors held signs featuring the words “I am Eric Garner” and chanted what has become a rallying cry of the movement to end police killings of unarmed black men: “Hands up/Don’t shoot.” Andre Irving, 31 and black, attended the rally with his father Mark Irving, 57. “I’m worried for my safety, the safety of my family, my friends, my neighbors,” he told TIME. “Can I go to the store and walk home without being killed?”

Eva Osborne, 8, wore a pin featuring the words “I can’t breathe,” some of the last words Eric Garner spoke before he dies in a video of his arrest, and a phrase that has also been used as a rallying call. “I have a black brother and a black dad,” she said. Her brother is five, her father 43, the same age as Eric Garner. “When my brother grows up, he might be treated the same way.”

Police declined to estimate the size of the ground in Washington, the New York Times reports, but media estimates place the size of the crowd in the tens of thousands. Police in New York City estimated the crowd size at roughly 12,000.

The protests mark a new level of civil action in weeks of sometimes violent unrest around the country, as citizens erupted in mass outrage after no charges were brought against police officers responsible for killing Brown, an unarmed teenager shot by police in Ferguson, and Garner, an unarmed Staten Island man who died after being aggressively subdued by police during his arrest for illegally selling cigarettes on the street.

The Justice For All march in Washington was spearheaded by the National Action Network led by Al Sharpton. Some demonstrators, expressing disdain at those they considered celebrity protestors, disrupted the proceedings at a pre-march rally, The Washington Post reports.

TIME Crime

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Announces Police Retraining Program

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference to speak about new guidelines for NYPD officer retraining at the New York Police Academy in the Flushing section of Queens, New York, on Dec. 4, 2014.
Anthony Beha—SIPA USA New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference to speak about new guidelines for NYPD officer retraining at the New York Police Academy in the Flushing section of Queens, New York, on Dec. 4, 2014.

Some 22,000 officers will complete a three-day training course on tactics like deescalation

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for the retraining of the city’s police force on Thursday, one day after the announcement that a grand jury declined to indict a white officer in the death of an unarmed black man.

“The relationship between police and community has to change. The way we go about policing has to change,” de Blasio said in an afternoon news conference, standing next to Police Commissioner William Bratton and other city leaders as he called for reforms. “People need to know that black lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives.”

MORE: See Protestors Take to the Streets After the Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision

Some 22,000 officers will complete a three-day training course that will aim to brush them up on tactics like deescalating situations and interacting with people who are mentally ill, Bratton said. De Blasio noted that $35 million will go into the training to allow for overtime pay.

The mayor’s announcement followed a night of largely peaceful demonstrations around the city and preempted a rally planned Thursday evening at Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square. A series of police-involved deaths this year has put politicians under scrutiny over a lack of trust between police departments and the local communities they serve.

Read next: Why a Medical Examiner Called Eric Garner’s Death a ‘Homicide’

TIME Crime

Justice Department Finds Cleveland Police Guilty of Excessive Use of Force

U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division, right, makes a statement during a news conference on Dec. 4, 2014, in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak—AP U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division, right, makes a statement during a news conference on Dec. 4, 2014, in Cleveland.

Investigation found that officers excessively used deadly force, unnecessarily used Tasers and chemical sprays, and used unwarranted force against mentally ill people

The U.S. Department of Justice has told the Cleveland police department to conduct an internal shake-up after a federal probe found its officers systematically and routinely used excessive and unreasonable force.

A 21-month-long investigation into the practices of the Cleveland Division of Police concluded Thursday that officers excessively use deadly force, unnecessarily utilize tools like Tasers and chemical sprays, and use unwarranted force against people who are mentally ill.

The report is a damning portrayal of a department that has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union and others within Cleveland for years over its conduct.

(MORE: Attorney General Eric Holder Plans ‘Institute of Justice’ to Address Protest Concerns)

The federal government began investigating the department in March 2013 after the officer-related shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams following a high-speed car chase. On Nov. 29, 2012, more than 100 Cleveland police officers were involved in trying to apprehend Russell and Williams, both of whom were black and unarmed. Officers eventually fired 137 shots at the car. Almost all of the officers who fired were white.

The department has come under scrutiny again in recent days after a black 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, was shot dead on Nov. 22 by a white police officer in a Cleveland park, who apparently mistook a toy pellet gun for a real firearm.

Cleveland police have agreed to an independent monitor who will oversee a series of reforms within the department.

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