Pubdate: Fri, 22 Apr 2016
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Times Colonist
Author: Cindy E. Harnett
Page: A1


A Victoria police officer who advocated for drug legalization while
off duty and claimed discrimination by the Victoria Police Department
has been awarded $20,000 in a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision.

Const. David Bratzer filed a human rights complaint in February 2013,
saying the department effectively muzzled him by limiting his right to
speak personally and publicly as a member of Law Enforcement Against
Prohibition while off duty.

LEAP is an international non-profit organization, headquartered in the
United States and composed of current and former law-enforcement
officials. It advocates for the legalization and regulation, with age
restrictions, of all illicit drugs.

Bratzer, employed by the department since 2007, was seeking $65,000
because the discrimination was longstanding and interfered with his
right to express his views.

Instead, over the course of a 10-day hearing, the tribunal considered
injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect in awarding Bratzer
$20,000. The department argued against any such award.

Bratzer complained that on eight occasions, the Victoria Police
Department attempted to restrain his advocacy for LEAP and changes to
drug laws, and in so doing, discriminated against him on the basis of
his political beliefs, contrary to section 13 of the Human Rights Code.

Having considered eight alleged incidents, tribunal member Walter
Rilkoff found five instances - a majority - in which Bratzer was
discriminated against.

In those instances, Bratzer was prohibited from attending the Victoria
Harm Reduction conference, was given direction not to speak at a Green
Party event, had his right to speak out on drug legalization violated
in letters from senior officials in June 2011 and September 2012, and
was ordered not to speak to the press on the successful 2012
Washington state referendum on pot reform.

Bratzer received several letters from his supervisors that set out
rules for public speaking, including a requirement that he ask for
permission. Rilkoff noted former Victoria police chief Jamie Graham's
political views, which were not in favour of drug legalization or
decriminalization, played a partial role in how Bratzer was treated on
one occasion.

Victoria police said in a statement Thursday that the department
accepts the tribunal's decision. The department said the tribunal
recognized its efforts to balance its interests with Bratzer's right
to express his views - which the tribunal identified as "a novel and a
difficult issue."

"From the VicPD perspective, we are pleased that the tribunal
recognized our good-faith efforts," Acting Chief Constable Del Manak
said in a statement. "It is important to accept this decision, learn
what we can from it, and move forward as an institution."

In light of his findings, Rilkoff ordered the police department to
"cease these contraventions of the [human rights] code and to refrain
from committing the same or similar contraventions."

The tribunal ordered the department not to enforce sections from a
series of letters and documents and to remove them from Bratzer's file.

The 86-page decision said that Bratzer had long wanted to be a police
officer. After time as a jail guard, beat cop and then police drug
expert in trafficking of marijuana and cocaine, he came to believe in
LEAP's stance that adult drug abuse is a health problem not a
law-enforcement matter.
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