The Victoria BC Police Department, an organization that should be known for its bravery, exhibited a rather extreme act of cowardice recently.
David Bratzer, who volunteers with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) while off-duty, has been ordered not to speak at an official City of Victoria-sponsored event on harm reduction scheduled for this Wednesday, March 3 at 7:00 P.M.
Even though the event is scheduled outside of his regular work hours, management from the Victoria Police Department, without Bratzerâ€™s knowledge, informed city staff that he was being withdrawn from speaking. Then on February 24, a senior officer at the department directly ordered Bratzer not to participate in the event.
In response to these developments, Bratzer stated: “I will not be attending this event, but I would like to thank the City of Victoria for the invitation to be part of an honest and open discussion about harm reduction. I will try to find other venues to present my views about drug policy.”
Upon learning of the departmentâ€™s order, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the Victoria Police Board.
Bratzer has always taken pains to state that his opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of his employer. He has participated in a number of credible venues related to drug policy during the past year, including delivering testimony to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in Ottawa (video available from LEAP).
â€œThe voices of front-line officers who are charged with enforcing the drug laws are incredibly important to the public debate on drug policy issues,â€ said Jack Cole, a retired American undercover narcotics detective who serves as executive director for LEAP. â€œPreventing an officer from sharing his firsthand perspective about the harms of our current drug laws with policymakers is a disservice to the entire democratic process.â€
Here is the BC Civil Liberties Association press release:
The BCCLA is concerned that the Victoria Police Department is taking an unduly punitive and anti-free speech position without justification. […] Where an off-duty communication by a member is a critique or endorsement of government or department policy, and it is not stated or implied in that communication that the member is unable or unwilling to enforce the law impartially and according to his or her statutory and professional duties, it is inappropriate for a police department to interfere with that communication.
It’s fear, pure and simple. This action by the Police Department isn’t about policy, or about protecting the reputation of the department. It’s about fearing the message. Period.
We’re a scary bunch. ‘Cause we bring facts that upset the apple cart.