Active duty police officer and LEAP speaker/blogger David Bratzer was planning to accept an invitation to speak about drug policy and harm reduction at an official city government-sponsored event this week...until his police department's leadership stepped in and ordered him not to show up.
If you think such censorship is unfair, please add your name to LEAP's petition at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com/freespeech to show your support for cops like David who speak out against unjust and ineffective drug polices even while they risk their lives enforcing them.
There are more details in the press release that follows.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 2, 2010
CONTACT: Tom Angell, LEAP – (202) 557-4979 or media //at// leap //dot// cc
B.C. Police Officer Ordered Not to Discuss Drug Policy and Harm Reduction
Civil Liberties Advocates File Complaint With Victoria Police Board
VICTORIA, BC – An international group of cops, judges and prosecutors who oppose the “war on drugs” is criticizing a gag order from the Victoria Police Department that limits the freedom of expression of one of its officers. The officer, David Bratzer, who volunteers with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) while off-duty, has been ordered not to speak at an official City of Victoria-sponsored event on harm reduction scheduled for this Wednesday, March 3 at 7:00 P.M.
Even though the event is scheduled outside of his regular work 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management from the Victoria Police Department, without Bratzer’s knowledge, informed city staff that he was being withdrawn from speaking.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.
In response to these developments, Bratzer stated: "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. I will try to find other venues to present my views about drug policy."
Upon learning of the department’s order, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the Victoria Police Board.
Bratzer has always taken pains to state that his opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of his employer. He has participated in a number of credible venues related to drug policy during the past year, including delivering testimony to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in Ottawa (video available from LEAP).
“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 serves as 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.”
LEAP is hosting an online petition at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com/freespeech where people can speak up in support of law enforcers' rights to exercise their freedom of speech and criticize drug polices that they disagree with.
As the above matter is now a sensitive labour issue, Bratzer will not be commenting further for the time being. Please contact LEAP for further information.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is an international non-profit organization of cops, prosecutors, correctional officers and other criminal justice professionals who believe the War on Drugs is a tremendous failure. Its members believe that a system of regulation and control would be more ethical and less harmful than drug prohibition. More info at www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.
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Don't forget to add your voice in support for David and other cops' free speech rights at LEAP's petition.