Thursday, October 29, 2009

LEAP speaker in NH legal battle

For those who don't know, Bradley Jardis is one of the few serving police officers in the world who is also a public member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Jardis - a ten year veteran patrol officer - has been working in law enforcement since high school. Right now he is embroiled in a nasty legal fight allegedly related to workplace harassment after a February 2009 appearance on the front page of the New Hampshire Union Leader. Although Bradley had been a member of the LEAP Speakers Bureau for some time, this was the first newspaper article that identified him as a member of the Epping Police Department:
"When he's working, Epping Police Officer Bradley Jardis is just like any other cop. He's patrolling the streets to catch people with drugs because that's what he's supposed to do. But when he's off the clock, this 28-year-old officer is speaking publicly about why he believes existing drug policies have failed and why it's time for lawmakers to legalize drugs. It's an unusual position to take for a police officer charged with enforcing laws, but Jardis insists that prohibiting drugs leaves the dealers in control, creating a dangerous black market that breeds crime and gives kids easy access."
Following the article, it appears that a series of events took place which culminated in Bradley receiving a six day unpaid suspension. He has appealed this suspension and demanded a public hearing on the issue before the Epping Board of Selectmen. We're not sure of all the details yet, but "Assawyer" on the web site wrote:
"Brad received the suspension for how he interacted with his sergeant in which he stated he wouldn't follow an illegal order forbidding him to speak to the media after Brad was removed from a case by the sergeant; and for sending an e-mail to his fellow union members in the department describing malfeasance involving their union president and the Lieutenant who was in charge of investigating/disciplining Brad on the illegal order issue."
As previously explained in Part Two of a three part series on the LEAP blog about police officers and free speech, New Hampshire has strong free speech legislation designed to protect public employees. One hopes this will ultimately shield Jardis from disciplinary action by his employer.

You can get more background information and follow further developments on this multi-page thread, where Bradley himself writes:
"I have a huge support network. I am a very lucky person and I am thankful for how fortunate I am. I believe in the truth and honesty and I believe this to be a matter of public concern. I think as a law enforcement officer I am in the best vantage point to speak publicly on what I identify as something that makes our communities far less safe... IE: drug prohibition. The public should know how an employee who tries to make logical arguments about changing public policy is treated."
You can also watch this five minute video by NH web journalist Dave Ridley (FYI there are short ads at the beginning and end of the segment):

On the plus side, it looks like Jardis may someday generate new case law that will protect free speech for all police officers in New Hampshire. The downside is that this is probably going to be a long, messy, expensive and painful process for him. Bradley has great legal representation but it is important for the broader drug policy reform community to show its support as well. These events continue a trend started with the firing of Sgt. Jonathan Wender in 2005 from the Mountlake Terrace police department in Washington state. Wender - a public member of LEAP at the time - sued and eventually won a settlement of $812,500.

One has to wonder: how many serving officers have been deterred from joining LEAP over concerns about similar problems occurring within their own organizations?

Update: The Union Leader just published their story. It provides more details about the events that led to the suspension.


  1. This is an issue that should be of concern even to those who don't support re-legalization of marijuana. It is rare and inspirational to see people like Jardis who are so principled as to take a stand that is so detrimental to their career prospects. Their right to free speech deserves protection from everyone, whether they believe in his cause or not.

  2. The drug warriors stomp on citizens' civil liberties daily. It is no surprise to me that they would try to deny this brave officer's right to free speech. They do it because their money is threatened by truth.

  3. Officer Jardis: Thank you for being intrepid. You're a young man full of energy, for all the right reason's, wonderful!

    And to the "seasoned" members of LEAP: Please provide guidance, wisdom, and strength to Bradley, whether he says he needs it or not.

  4. How would someone go about donating to Officer Jardis' legal defense fund?

  5. Anonymous at 3:26 AM: I've sent Officer Jardis an email about your question and I'll post the response here once he replies... thanks for your support.

  6. Anonymous at 3:26 AM: I've heading off to work and won't be back until late tonight, so here are a couple of options for sending money to Jardis:

    1) Send a check or money order to Officer Jardis care of his lawyer, Lawrence A. Vogelman, at:

    Officer Bradley Jardis
    c/o Lawrence A. Vogelman
    77 Central Street
    Manchester, NH 03101

    2) You can donate money through the LEAP web site by clicking here. Then send an email to LEAP program manager Kristen Daley ( indicating that money is meant specifically for Bradley Jardis. I've actually been meaning to set up a generic LEAP Speaker Legal Defense Fund for a while now, but other projects (like this blog) have taken priority.

    Thanks again for your support - it is much appreciated!

  7. Thank you all for your kind words -- and thank you Dave for being such a good friend in offering me support.

    To those who wish to donate: I'd encourage you to donate in the name of the LEAP Legal Defense Fund to help get it started. What better time than now!

    I am very fortunate in that I am in a good position with regard to money. I'd love to see that money go to build the fund up so that other law enforcers who are not in as strong a position as me know that LEAP has their back if anyone tries to tangle with them!

    Regarding this whole issue I'd like to point out that my bosses refused comment to the Union Leader. It was I who provided the UL with complete access to my confidential employment file and the LT's investigation.

    The only piece of discipline I have in my file right now (after 11+ years on the job) is a written repremand (which I deserved) for getting into a cruiser accident within the last year. I was distracted from the roadway for a moment and clipped a telephone pole. It was a stupid mistake and I took full responsibility for it.

    My attorney (who is very, very good) agrees that a clear pattern can be established with regards to this supervisor who I had the dispute with. He also agrees that their addition of ordering me be suspended for sending an email to fellow union members is a violation of the law (RSA 273-A:5 I. (b)) and Constitution.

    This case is far from over!

    I love you all!

  8. What a shame that Officer Jardis has been punished for the views he holds; that's something that none of us should ever have to deal with. I'm sure you know that we strongly support your quest for justice Officer Jardis!

    This is what drug warriors are about: suppressing the truth in the name of some perceived moral high ground, using any means possible. It's a shame that some of the very people tasked with upholding the rule of law so easily discard some of the most fundamental rights in our society.

  9. This story made me so mad I finally put up an About page and exposed my name! I am right here and will "fight" with every bit of Yankee ingenuity and sinewy Scottish gumption I can muster.

    I grew up in New England, what happened to "Live free or die!?!" I left NE for college in the south east and soon learned of their passion in the same vein, but they never expressed it quite as well as the NH slogan, and I also found it disturbing that none of them seemed to have heard of the NH slogan!

    Even where I live now, many people seem to have this attitude, but what continues to strike me as odd, and sad, is that every place I go seems to think it's only they who have that attitude.

    Hm, Bradley, I think this calls for a virtual "prayer vigil." So I think I'll set up a brand new section in my forums for just such occasions.

    Has anyone contacted orgs like the ACLU and others who take such cases? I'm not sure if this falls in the realm, but since email was involved… they are lawyers and take up cases.

  10. To the extent that the Wender decision depended on the Constitution and/or federal precedent, it will obviously be an important part of any legal arguments on Officer Jardis' side.

    Fighting this case successfully is extremely important not just for Officer Jardis, but for the entire public discussion on drug policy. One of the most important perspectives on drug policy is that of police officers who know that it is a waste of effort, money and life. LEAP knows that there are tens of thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of these officers out there. But virtually none of them state their perspective in public, mainly because of the risk of being treated like Officer Jardis.

    Now down at the detail level, there are some points which I think should be taken into account. I'm not talking from a legal or drug policy perspective here, but as a bureaucrat: I've worked in big companies for 29 years, and I know how bureaucracies behave. A police department is many things, but one of those things is a bureaucracy. So is a union, whether it likes to admit it or not.

    In a bureaucracy, refusing an order to NOT go to the media immediately draws a battle line, and creates a polarization which is usually permanent. This is because bureaucrats want two things above all: to know what their job is, and to be LEFT ALONE to do it. Once the media is involved, there is no hope of being left alone. That makes "going to the media" a very negative action in a bureaucracy, regardless the fact that it is clearly legal.

    The implication here (and it is only a public relations implication, NOT a legal one unless there are specific rules in the employment contract about the media) is that there needs to be a convincing argument to show that Officer Jardis was forced into such a negative position that he had no reasonable option but to refuse the order.

    Similar considerations apply to sending the e-mail to all union members. "Shotgun" e-mails on any subject don't go over well in bureaucracies, regardless of the fact that there is nothing at all illegal about them. Here also, there needs to be an argument showing that this was the only reasonable option under the circumstances.

    With respect to the release of the confidential employee file, I presume that there were some constraints applied to protect the privacy of people other than Officer Jardis who appear in the file, or whose words appear in the file. This would seem to be a necessity.

    As long as those constraints are in place, giving the file to the newspaper protects against something that has happened in some other situations: A person gets slandered and attacked by superiors who make FALSE claims about bad things in the confidential file -- and of course the claims can't be checked, because the file is confidential.

  11. Steve,

    The e-mail itself (which can be read on Free Keene's forums) was intended to make the other Union members aware of what the president did and to have a meeting about it.

    The fact that it "disrupted" the police department is not a legal reason to discipline me.

    RSA 273-A:5 I. (b) clearly states that it is unlawful for a public employer to interfere with the administration of a labor organization. If the facts of the case were unpleasant to the Lieuteant, well, that is unfortuante for him. I was engaging in activities directly related to the Union when I sent the e-mail.

    Do you see my argument?

  12. They are trying to deny me a hearing AT ALL now.

  13. Steve - thank you for your thoughtful comments! I agree it is important to examine the details of any situation, particularly with this case as quite a lot has occurred. This case - as with many labour disputes I imagine - has some aspects to it that are not black and white but grey. Now, I might not have taken the exact same actions as Bradley did but at the end of the day employees are allowed to do what they decide to do within the bounds of the constitution, labour law, their state police act and their department policies. So I think if his actions were within those boundaries he should be OK. Also, I think that the Epping Police Department is quite small (30 members??) so it is not as if Bradley emailed his "disruptive" email to a large organization with a thousand officers.

    Bradley - I saw the update you posted... to me it looks like you acted in good faith by requesting the public hearing within five business days, whether it came from your attorney, yourself or your union. If anything I would think this would galvanize your union which could be helpful in the long term.

  14. Yes, I see the point. An e-mail from a union member to other union members about union business is absolutely none of the employer's business. Here in the company where I work, the union would not tolerate that kind of interference for a millisecond.

    Somewhat related to this, I cannot see how it could be a "fact" that the e-mail "disrupted" the police department. What is the definition of "disruption"? And if something happened that fits whatever that definition is, how is it that the e-mail is considered the cause, rather than it being someone's reaction to the e-mail?

    I have a soft spot in my memory for Keene, NH. I learned New England contra dancing from the late Ralph Page.

  15. That is the million dollar question Steve.

    Unions discuss management all of the time... and not always in the most positive light.

    Everything in the e-mail I sent to fellow union members is, in my belief, 100% true.


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