War on Drugs

Non-Violent Drug Offenders Are "Peddlers of Death," Says Law Enforcement Group President

Head of federal officers association says Obama commuting the sentences of 46 prisoners is "releasing the lions."


Jon Adler, the President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), writes in an op-ed for Police Magazine that the 46 non-violent drug offenders whose sentences were commuted by President Obama last month are "peddlers of death," and that allowing them back into society is akin to "releasing the lions."

Halt! I'm bald eagle.

In Adler's view, "Releasing these peddlers of death and turning America into a buzzed 'udopia' is a slap in law enforcement's face." He complains that the White House's "scorecard" of the 46 prisoners doesn't take into account "the drugs involved and the weight," which is only half true, as the White House's press release clearly names the drugs and specific crimes which led to a conviction.

Sarcastically referring to the prisoners as "poor misguided souls (who) received unfair sentences," Adler adds:

Drug traffickers are by necessity violent. Their crimes yield death in the form of overdoses, street crimes by users who need money to buy drugs, and bullets sprayed in turf battles.

According to their website, FLEOA "represents more than 25,000 federal law enforcement officers from over 65 different agencies" and "and is frequently called upon to provide testimony at congressional hearings."

Despite Adler's theatrical pronouncement that the streets of America will soon be swarming with drug kingpins, the fact is Obama only commuted the sentences of a few dozen inmates out of the more than 35,000 who applied for clemency under new federal guidelines intended to both reduce the ever-expanding U.S. prison population and also provide a second chance at life for prisoners who, thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing reforms, would have received substantially shorter sentences had they been convicted today.

On the day of the commutations, Reason's Lauren Galik wrote:

Of the 46 prisoners whose sentences were commuted today, 14 were sentenced to life (although one individual had his life sentenced amended to 293 months, or roughly 24 ½ years, in March). All of the prisoners were sentenced for a nonviolent drug offense, but the majority were convicted of a crack/cocaine offense. Two individuals, Jerome Johnson and John Wyatt, were convicted of only marijuana offenses.

Adler might claim to speak for law enforcement when making hyperbolic pronouncements about the president's long overdue and extremely limited act of mercy for 46 people suffering through draconian prison terms, but the law enforcement community is hardly a monolith when it comes to drug prohibition.

For a contrary viewpoint, watch Reason TV's interview with Neill Franklin, the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP):