Pubdate: Mon, 25 Apr 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: S1
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Rosemary Newton
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:


A Victoria police officer who won a human-rights complaint against the
force says "on the ground" experience led him to support drug
legalization - and he says he doesn't think he's alone on the force.

Constable David Bratzer was awarded $ 20,000 last week after the B. C.
Human Rights Tribunal ruled the Victoria Police Department violated
his rights by preventing him from advocating for legalization.

A civil-liberties group describes the ruling as precedent-setting.

Constable Bratzer filed the complaint after the force barred him from
participating in the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which
advocates for regulated legalization of illicit drugs. He was also
banned from speaking at a panel discussing harm reduction in Victoria.

Constable Bratzer said he formed his views on legalization after
joining in the force in 2007 and noticing repeat arrests of addicts.
He said he thinks many officers across forces hold similar beliefs.

"Police officers have valuable, on the ground experience when it comes
to difficult issues that society grapples with and the tribunal
recognized that," he said in an interview.

"There's lots of officers who do question this issue, but I think a
lot of those same officers looked at what I was going through and the
experiences I had and the effects on my career and said to themselves,
I don't want that to happen to me."

The human-rights tribunal concluded that by restricting Constable
Brazter's off-duty activity as a drug-policy reform advocate, the
Victoria Police Department was discriminating on the basis of
political belief. The 86-page decision was released on April 20, the
same day plans for Canada-wide legalization were announced.

Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B. C. Civil Liberties
Association, said the case clarified when a person's individual right
to political participation crosses the line into breaching duty of
loyalty to an employer.

"Broad-based, non-evidence-based concerns, are not enough to ground
the employer's right to curtail your public speech in relation to a
political view," Ms. Vonn said.

She said instances in which an employee does not speak up for
political beliefs off-duty are common. An example, she said, is
government employees who wish to advocate off-duty for changes to
environmental regulation but are reluctant to do so.

"It's critical to understand that you are not undermining the law by
advocating, legally advocating, for change in the law."

Legally, employees are allowed to advocate off-duty for their
political beliefs, she said, and added that in Constable Bratzer's
case, he was careful not to compromise his employer with his political

Darby Beck, the chief operating officer of Law Enforcement Against
Prohibition, the group that Constable Bratzer wanted to participate
in, said thousands of its members, primarily in the United States,
have law-enforcement backgrounds and a handful, between five and 10,
are active-duty officers.

"This sets a standard that more officers will be able to come forward
and talk about what they believe in," she said.

The force issued a statement that said it accepted the

"From the [ Victoria Police Department's] perspective, we are pleased
that the tribunal recognized our good faith efforts," said acting
Chief Constable Del Manak in a statement.

"It is important to accept this decision, learn what we can from it,
and move forward as an institution."  
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