A pro-legalization Canadian police officer has been ordered by his department’s leadership not to show up at a drug policy event where he was scheduled to speak on Wednesday.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
, an international group of cops, judges and prosecutors who oppose the “War On Drugs,” is criticizing the gag order from the Victoria, British Columbia Police Department that limits the freedom of speech of one of its officers.
Officer David Bratzer, who volunteers with LEAP while off duty, was ordered not to speak at an official, City of Victoria-sponsored event on harm reduction scheduled for Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
Even though the event is scheduled outside his regular working hours, management from the Victoria Police Department, without Bratzer’s knowledge, informed city staff that he was being “withdrawn from speaking.”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.
|Officer David Bratzer: “I will try to find other venues to present my views about drug policy”
“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,” Bratzer said. “I will try to find other venues to present my views about drug policy.”
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the Victoria Police Board upon learning of the department’s order.
Bratzer has always taken pains to make clear that his opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of the police department, according to LEAP. He has in the past year participated in a number of credible venues related to drug policy, including testifying to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in Ottawa (see the video from LEAP here
“The voices of front-line officers who are charged with enforcing the drug laws are incredibly important to the public debate on drug policy issues,” said Jack Cole, a retired American undercover narcotics detective who is executive director for LEAP.
“Preventing 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,” Cole said.
LEAP is hosting an online petition
where people who think such censorship is unfair can add their names to show support for cops like David who speak out against unjust and ineffective drug policies, even while they risk their lives enforcing them.