David Bratzer is a young, soft-spoken police officer with the Victoria (British Columbia) Police Department. He comes from a law enforcement family; two of his brothers are VicPD officers. Thoughtful, well spoken, Bratzer loves being a cop and serving his community. But now he's been ordered not to air his views on the most compelling of all public safety issues.
Bratzer was deeply affected by the serial killings of prostitutes in and around Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The infamous pig farmer Robert "Willie" Pickton was convicted in 2007 of the murders of six women, though he's confessed to a total of 49 killings (he'd hoped to make it an even 50 but he "got sloppy" and got caught). Following the progress of the trial, Bratzer drew a connection between the murder victims and their circumstances: Pickton's victims were drug addicts, most of them working the streets in order to finance their habit. Bratzer concluded that Canada's drug laws had contributed to, and in a very real sense, caused the deaths of these women.
He decided to speak out against the War on Drugs, and has done so persistently and eloquently as a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He has understood and followed the rules of his organization. He speaks off duty, never in uniform, always informing his audiences that he's expressing personal views, not those of the Victoria Police Department.
Officer Bratzer was scheduled to address, on his own time, an important "harm reduction" conference in the city this week. His chief stepped in, said no. Why? He didn't like the message Bratzer was set to deliver. Of course, this decision by the brass has had the effect of shining an even brighter light on the horrific effects of the U.S.-led drug war. That's good.
But it's both puzzling and disturbing that an honorable police officer, in a free and democratic society, has been muzzled.
Especially when what he has to say would save lives.
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