Unjust Termination? How Supporting Marijuana Decriminalization Got One Cop Fired
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Joe Miller, who had worked as a probation officer for nearly three years in Arizona, was fired in December after adding his name to a Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) letter that supported a California ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona this week filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of the former Mohave County Probation Officer, alleging that county officials violated Miller’s First Amendment rights by unlawfully retaliating against him.
“There’s no question Mohave County officials targeted Miller based on his political views,” said ACLU of Arizona cooperating attorney Daniel Bonnett, of the Phoenix-based law firm of Martin & Bonnett.
“Government employees have a First Amendment right to speak out on matters of public concern and retaliating against them for exercising their free speech rights is simply un-American.”
Miller added his name to a LEAP letter in June that endorsed California’s Proposition 19, an initiative on the state’s November ballot that would have allowed adults to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Thirty-one other law officers also signed the letter.
Despite the letter’s disclaimer making it clear he was not speaking on behalf of the county, Miller was terminated because he “fail[ed] to maintain neutrality in action and appearance when [he] gave permission to the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) organization to include [his] job title and department ‘Deputy Probation Officer, Mohave County Probation Department’ with [his] endorsement of a California ballot proposition.”
“I was terminated not because my service was inadequate, but because my views on drug policy didn’t align with those of Mohave County or my superiors in the Probation Department,” Miller said.