Cop used dope for stress

TROPICAL BARS: Former detective inspector Mark Franklin is serving a jail term in the Cook Islands for cannabis dealing.
TROPICAL BARS: Former detective inspector Mark Franklin is serving a jail term in the Cook Islands for cannabis dealing.

A former senior Kiwi cop serving time in a Cook Islands jail for drug offences has described how he used cannabis to cope with the overwhelming stress of some of New Zealand's grisliest murders.

In a candid, warts-and-all interview at Arorangi Prison on Rarotonga, former Detective Inspector Mark Franklin described his fall from grace, the incredible stress of the job and how he turned to cannabis.

He said it relaxed him and made him more focused, although he was always careful to smoke it during his own time away from a police environment.

Franklin described how police officers once discovered he and a group of friends sharing a joint in downtown Auckland. The incident came in the middle of a notorious double-murder investigation and could have spelled the end of Franklin's celebrated career, but after coming clean to his supervisor he was let off with a warning.

Franklin was one of New Zealand's most highly respected detectives and cracked the cold case murders of Dean Fuller-Sandys and Leah Stephens, and also led the inquiry into the abduction and stabbing of hairdresser Marie Jamieson.

In 2005 he left the police on psychological grounds and moved to the Cook Islands, where he worked as a musician while helping local police on fraud and corruption cases.

Last month he was sentenced to one year's jail after pleading guilty to charges of selling cannabis to an undercover officer in Rarotonga in 2010.

Franklin was one of 13 people arrested during Operation Eagle, a joint investigation between Cook Islands and New Zealand police. Others arrested included the son of a prominent politician and a former female police officer.

Franklin had just been diagnosed with cancer when he was arrested, and says he used cannabis to help with nausea.

He admits he has always been a recreational cannabis user, but objects to media coverage describing him as a drug dealer.

He said he was pestered by the undercover officer to find him cannabis. "The media attention in New Zealand was ‘top homicide detective biggest drug boss in Cook Islands' - which is not me at all," he said.

Former Detective Inspector Harry Quinn, who retired in 2008 after 37 years in the police, including helping set up the national organised crime unit, said psychological issues were some of the "battle scars" that police officers, especially senior detectives, carried.

"It [stress] is an incredibly difficult thing for people to deal with because you don't get much in the way of training. It's very much a macho environment and you're expected to deal with it. Whilst there is a lot of psychological assistance available, I think amongst a lot of police there's a bit of stigma still surrounding the use of psychologists."

Quinn said he knew of a "significant number" of officers, having left the police, who felt the "shackles have been released" and used recreational drugs. "They're adults, it doesn't seem to have a huge impact on them."

Quinn said Franklin was a "lovely guy. I'm disappointed to hear he was a recreational user when he was in the police, although I'm not so naive to think he would be the only one. In fact there's been some publicity around former undercover agents who, while they remained in the police, were recreational users."

One slip-up should not be the end of an officer's distinguished career, Quinn said.

"He was a very, very good detective inspector, and I hope people don't forget that when they pass comments about his demise. I'm saddened to think he's going to sit in a South Pacific jail for a year, he deserves better."

The Sunday Star-Times attempted to draw police on Franklin's problems with stress and use of cannabis, including what welfare assistance was available and what training officers received to avoid falling into the trap of recreational drug use.

Detective Superintendent Rod Drew, national manager of criminal investigations, would say only that a range of appropriate welfare options were available to staff.

Sunday Star Times