Pubdate: Tue, 26 Apr 2016
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Page: 10
Copyright: 2016 Times Colonist


Police officers have rights, too. It's unfortunate that it has taken
so long for the bureaucracy to figure that out. Const. David Bratzer
of the Victoria police department has been awarded $20,000 in a B.C.
Human Rights Tribunal decision. He had been seeking $65,000 because of
the department's longstanding efforts to keep him quiet.

Bratzer's transgression? While off duty, he advocated for drug
legalization and changes to drug laws. VicPD said, however, he could
not speak publicly or personally as a member of the group Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition.

It can be difficult for some to accept that police officers might not
agree with all of the laws they are being asked to enforce.

It is more difficult to accept the notion that a police department
could discriminate against one of its officers because of his
political beliefs that were not far removed from mainstream thinking.

What is most difficult of all is the realization that this case was
allowed to go on for as long as it did, taking time and money that
could have been spent on more important priorities.

The tribunal found that former police chief Jamie Graham was not in
favour of drug legalization or decriminalization, and that played a
partial role in the treatment of Bratzer on at least one occasion.

Let's restate that: If Graham tried to gag Bratzer's off-duty comments
because he disagreed with Bratzer's views, then Graham overstepped his
position. That kind of management action is wrong.

But Graham left the department at the end of 2013. His political views
don't matter these days. VicPD and the police board have had two years
to settle this matter sensibly.

Instead, they pushed ahead. They hired an expensive Vancouver lawyer
and went through 10 days of hearings. What was the cost of that? Odds
are, the $20,000 that ended up in Bratzer's pocket was chump change
compared to the full cost of pursuing the matter.

No one spending their own money would have fought this case. It would
have been cheaper to settle - and settling would have been the right
thing to do.

But when it's taxpayers' money, there appears to be no problem. The
Bratzer case reflects a staggering disregard for the people who pay
the bills.

The two mayors who co-chair the board - Victoria's Lisa Helps and
Esquimalt's Barb Desjardins - should explain why they chose to pursue
this case, and why they did not think it would be a waste of
taxpayers' money.

However, they should not take the full blame. They are the co-chairs,
and there is one council appointee from Victoria and another from
Esquimalt. Four members of the board are provincial appointees, and
since the chairs don't vote unless there is a tie, a majority of the
board members are entirely unaccountable to the public - the people
they are, in theory, representing.

Remember that the taxpayers are paying both sides of the legal dispute
involving Frank Elsner, who was hired to succeed Graham and was
suspended last fall, and the two mayors.

Elsner filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court to try to stop a
public-trust investigation into allegations he sent inappropriate
Twitter messages to the wife of a subordinate officer. The petition
names as defendants police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe, as well
as Desjardins and Helps. Taxpayers are paying all the bills.

Will this be another case that continues far too long, with the people
involved facing no financial risk?

Given the poor decisions made in the Bratzer case, taxpayers have
every right to an answer. As it stands, when our money is involved, we
have no reason to believe that the police board has our best interests
in mind.  
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