Pubdate: Wed, 27 Apr 2016
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Page: A6
Copyright: 2016 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:


Police officers have rights, too. It's unfortunate 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.

The Victoria police department 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 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.

Graham left the department at the end of 2013. The police department
and police board have had two years to settle the 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 Victoria's police 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 aren't the only ones to blame. 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
unaccountable to the public - the people they, in theory, represent.

Taxpayers in the Victoria area are also 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 court petition to try to stop a public-trust
investigation into allegations he sent inappropriate Twitter messages.
The petition names as defendants police complaint commissioner Stan
Lowe, as well as Desjardins and Helps.

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 in the
capital city have every right to an answer. As it stands, when
taxpayers' money is involved, there's have no reason to believe
officials are managing it wisely.  
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