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  1. #1
    Finally Resting In Peace medpot's Avatar

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    Default BC: Pro-legalization cop files complaint against Victoria Police Department

    The VictoriaTimes Colonist


    Pro-legalization cop files complaint against Victoria Police Department


    KATIE DEROSA / TIMES COLONIST
    OCTOBER 28, 2013


    Const. David Bratzer, the co-ordinator of VicPD’s bait-car program, seen in a file
    photo from 2012, says he faces discrimination because of his advocacy of drug
    legalization. Photograph by: DARREN STONE, Times Colonist


    A Victoria police officer who is an outspoken advocate for drug legalization has filed a human rights complaint against the Victoria Police Department and Chief Jamie Graham, alleging he has been discriminated against based on his political views.

    Const. David Bratzer, co-ordinator of the department’s bait-car program, is also president of the Canadian branch of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international organization of current and former law-enforcement officials pushing for full legalization and regulation of drugs.

    The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has decided to investigate the bulk of the allegations despite complaints from the department that some incidents fell outside the six-month time limit. Bratzer filed his complaint in February, describing 11 incidents dating back three years.

    According to tribunal documents, Bratzer said he notified his superiors of his intention to join LEAP in 2008 and assured them that, if he participated in any public work on behalf of the organization, he would make clear the views were personal and that he was not representing the Victoria Police Department.

    Bratzer said he has kept that commitment but was warned not to criticize other officers or spend so much time on LEAP that it took away from the duties of his job. His position with LEAP is voluntary.

    Bratzer was barred from participating in a panel discussion on harm reduction at Victoria City Hall in February 2010, ordered not to comment publicly on Washington state’s successful referendum on marijuana legalization and repeatedly reminded that Graham disapproved of his actions.

    The complaint also names Insp. Jamie Pearce, who sent Bratzer a letter on Sept. 27, 2012, which said he must get permission from his supervisor before making any public statements “contrary to positions that the executive of the board of the Victoria Police Department is taking, or is reasonably expected to take on behalf of the department.”

    Graham was not available to comment, but Victoria police said in a statement: “While we can’t offer comment on the specifics of this complaint as it remains before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, VicPD remains hopeful that a resolution can be reached soon that satisfies both parties.”

    Bratzer’s allegations have yet to be proven at the tribunal.

    “All the incidents relate to his political belief about drug prohibition and all demonstrate repeated efforts by the respondents to restrict, prevent or deter him from publicly expressing his political belief outside of working hours,” the tribunal documents state.

    U.S.-based LEAP has about 5,000 members including current and former police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officers, border guards and former Drug Enforcement Agency officers.

    LEAP executive director Neill Franklin said many officers have been punished for being part of the organization, including being passed up for promotions or being fired.

    “Unfortunately, this is nothing new in the police world as far as folks like David who are active police officers doing what they should do as citizens [yet] being targeted by their police departments,” Franklin said.

    He said many in the law enforcement community support LEAP “covertly” because they fear reprisals from employers.

    “David knows the importance of speaking on his time, on his dime and not bringing his department into any of his speaking engagements. Being a police officer is an occupation, but we are citizens first,” Franklin said.

    In August, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs signalled a softening toward enforcement of minor drug offences, voting in favour of issuing violation tickets for possessing small amounts of marijuana instead of pursuing a criminal charge.

    kderosa@timescolonist.com

  2. #2
    Finally Resting In Peace medpot's Avatar

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    Default BC: Editorial: Paying a price for speaking out

    The Victoria Times Colonist


    Editorial: Paying a price for speaking out


    Times Colonist
    November 5, 2013 04:17 PM


    Victoria police Const. David Bratzer thinks drugs should be legalized, and he’s happy to talk about his position. VicPD is not as happy. Bratzer’s run-ins with the department have dropped him into the middle of the debate over how much freedom police officers have or should have to express their opinions. It’s a thorny problem.

    The constable is president of the Canadian branch of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which lobbies for legalization and regulation of drugs. Its members are current and former law-enforcement officials.

    Bratzer has filed a human-rights complaint against the department and Chief Jamie Graham because he says they have discriminated against him because of his political beliefs.

    He says he has been careful in any public speeches to make it clear he is speaking for himself and not the department. However, he was ordered not to participate in a panel discussion on harm reduction in February 2010, told not to comment publicly on Washington state’s successful referendum on marijuana legalization and reminded several times that Graham disapproved of his actions. He has also been warned not to criticize other police officers.

    Everyone who has been in the working world for more than a few weeks knows you don’t bad-mouth your employer in public, whether it’s a private business or a government department. But Bratzer is not denigrating the police department. He’s expressing an opinion about public policy, something every Canadian has a right to do.

    The sticky part is that he is not an ordinary Canadian.

    It’s obvious that if Bratzer is invited to speak about legalizing drugs, it’s because he is a police officer, not because he is a citizen who has an opinion on the issue. When an officer whose job is to enforce the laws says one of the laws should be abolished, his argument carries a disproportionate weight, if only for its novelty value.

    Is a police officer entitled to an opinion? He deals with the sharp end of the justice system every day. We can’t expect him to have no thoughts about the value or the enforceability of the laws. Given his experience, he has a perspective that few other people can provide.

    And he is not advising people to break the law. He is urging our politicians to change the law.

    He is not alone in asking for reform. In August, Canada’s police chiefs voted in favour of issuing tickets instead of laying criminal charges in cases of simple possession. Police are already selective in their enforcement of certain laws. In Vancouver last year, officers laid only six possession charges.

    Still, Bratzer’s public position could subtly undermine attitudes. If people know that the police believe a particular law should be abolished, are they more likely to flout that law? How are his colleagues likely to react if they are faithfully making drug busts and hunting dealers while he is campaigning to have the drug laws thrown out?

    They would be less than human if they didn’t resent it.

    On the other hand, what would the reaction be if a police officer called for tougher laws, rather than legalization? Police officers often do that, without any consequences. Graham has urged that people who use cellphones while driving should lose their phones. It created a stir and some debate, but nothing more.

    They are similarly political issues, but they don’t present the same pitfalls because they don’t question the existence of the law, only its severity.

    Bratzer is taking a principled stand. He should not face discrimination for it, but the police department has legitimate concerns over sending conflicting messages about law enforcement.

    © Copyright 2013

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