A veteran police officer is speaking out in support of a cause that few of his colleagues have dared to publicly support—the fight to decriminalize cannabis. Officer Nick Novello drew attention from local media when he was a featured speaker at a rally in support of cannabis legalization in downtown Dallas on Saturday.
“I’m here because I support you,” Novello told the crowd. “Today government does whatever it wants to do and you and I have to ask permission to exercise our basic freedoms. I have a problem with that.”
Novello told WFAA News that he believes individuals should not be punished for life if they choose to smoke cannabis, and part of the problem with the current “justice” system is that many of the politicians in office today have admitted to trying cannabis when they were younger—they just didn’t get caught and weren’t minorities.
“To me I see this as a morale choice,” Novello said. “Let me pose this question to our city leaders—what do you say to someone who has gotten out of jail after 20 years for cannibas when we have people in various other states becoming millionaires for the same behavior. How do you reconcile that?”
“It’s still the criminalization of those we’ve sworn to protect."
Novello also spoke out in July 2016, criticizing the Dallas Police Chief for painting a false picture of the department and ignoring the ongoing corruption that is running rampant among its officers.
“Officers are under pressure to reach targets. There has to be an end to the arrest and ticket quota that exists within the Dallas Police Department,” Novello said. “I am sick and tired of the public face of togetherness the chief puts on when he knows there’s a lot of bad feeling behind the scenes.”
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As a 35-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, Novello has criticized the fact that departments devote so much effort to catching and punishing nonviolent offenders who are caught with small amounts of cannabis, which inevitably takes away from the effort they could be putting towards responding to 911 callers who are in danger.
When the Dallas City Council announced its new city budget plan in August, the report claimed that the “priority-one response time” was an average of 8.24 minutes as of May 8, 2017. However, Novello told NBC DFW that the numbers were wrong, and the total time from “when a call is received until an officer arrives is longer that what the department figures show.”
"When we say the calls are going out promptly, no, they're not. No, they're not," Novello said. "You're putting the calls in somebody's box giving the impression they've been assigned."
Novello told WFAA that he has faced some backlash for sharing his views, and the Dallas Police Department even opened an internal investigation in August after he published a ">video on YouTube calling on President Trump to change the nation’s cannabis policy.
“Mr. President, the reason I come before you today is because I’m part of a small group of officers who feel our culture imperiled principally because of bad laws. So what I’d like to ask today, sir, is that you give serious consideration to removing cannabis from the Schedule 1 status that it now carries, and in doing so, you would allow its use in research for medicinal purposes. My passion lies with the fact that we would cease criminalizing our young.”
The report from WFAA claimed that while Novello planned to retire in September, he has remained on the force because he refuses to retire while an investigation into his conduct is ongoing. “Why I am I still employed? Because quite frankly, they know I’m right,” he said.