Why Growing Numbers of Police Are Slamming Drug Prohibition - Page 2

By Tony O'Neill 06/14/11
For decades, police were convinced that total prohibition was the only way to end America's deadly drug wars. Now thousands of cops are not only having second thoughts but actually taking to the streets in protest.

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But after his time on the board, Franklin was “right back to it,” as his law enforcement career continued to blossom. “I had to disregard all of that, because my job was to enforce the laws as they stood.” It was a few years later, soon after he retired from the force, that something else happened to change his worldview drastically: the murder of his friend and comrade Ed Toatley.

“I first met Ed Toatley in the 1980s,” Franklin recalls. “Shortly after he came onto the Maryland State Police he went into undercover narcotics work. If you did not get along with Ed, the issue was probably with you. I think that’s what made him the most effective undercover agent that the state of Maryland had ever seen. Many other agencies wanted to use him to work narcotics, including the FBI. In fact, the only time I can recall seeing him in his uniform—other than when he first came on—was the day we laid him in his coffin.”

Franklin’s voice becomes heavy with emotion. “Ed had three kids, a beautiful family. He worked for me on a number of occasions. At my retirement party that March [1999], Ed was the one who presented to me what is every trooper’s most prized possession—second to their retirement badge—when they retire: a shadow box. The shadow box contains all of your insignia, all of the things that went on your uniform; it tells the entire story of your career.”

Toatley was working on an undercover sting operation in Northeast Washington in late 2000. “He was supposed to be making this final buy from this individual within a couple of weeks,” Franklin recalls. “The buy was going down on October 30th.” Toatley had a reported $3,500 in cash to exchange for crack cocaine.

“The car Ed was driving was wired for sound, and had hidden cameras. So he picks up the bad guy, whose name is Kofi Orleans-Lindsay, and the guy directs him on the drive to pick up the drugs. They pull in a residential neighborhood and the guy leaves, supposedly to get the drugs.”

Kofi Orleans-Lindsay left Toatley’s unmarked Toyota 4-Runner around 8:30 PM. He came back a few moments later with a .380 semiautomatic pistol tucked in the pocket of his sweatshirt. “He returns and pauses for a moment outside the car to finish his cigarette…And then he reaches over and shoots Ed at point blank range in the side of the head.”

Franklin and his wife made the 54-mile drive to the hospital were Toatley had been taken. “I probably broke every land speed record there is. We get to the hospital and the place is packed. Friends, coworkers, family…But he had already passed.”

The murder of Ed Toatley sparked a nationwide manhunt for his killer, who fled to New York. A year later, 24-year old Kofi Orleans-Lindsay pled guilty to first-degree murder, and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. “The thing was a rip,” says Franklin, bitterly. “He’d just decided he was going to keep the drugs and the money, so he shot Ed in cold blood. That’s what this whole game is about.” His voice rises: “I don’t care if you’re a drug dealer on the street like Kofi Orleans-Lindsay was, or whether you’re in the business of big pharma, or the privatization of prisons, this war is all about money. Sure, there’s money being made by the people who stand out on street corners and sell this stuff, but there’s a lot more money being made on the other side.”

The loss of his friend prompted a long period of personal reflection on the direction of the war on drugs that eventually led Franklin, the one-time undercover narcotics cop, to LEAP. “I was looking for answers. I stumbled across their website, which was fairly new at the time, and contacted them via email.” He began working with LEAP in earnest in 2008, with the same drive that once propelled him up the ladder of the Maryland State Police. “As of now, LEAP is 24/7 for me.” He has been Executive Director since July 2010.

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Tony O'Neill, a regular contributor to The Fix, is the author of several novels, including Digging the VeinDown and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie). He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. You can follow Tony on Twitter.