10/09/11 David Bratzer

10 YEARS of DTN! with David Bratzer, a working constable in Victoria B.C. Canada who seeks and end to drug war and a job on the school board + Philip Guffy, Glenn Greenway, Mary Jane Borden and "Class War Fare" PSA

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Guest: 
David Bratzer
Organization: 
LEAP
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / October 9, 2011

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DEAN BECKER: Alright, you were expecting to hear a song I wrote called, ”Throttle up” with gong sounds and electric guitars taking flight. You thought you would hear Dr. Al Robinson, the founder of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, proclaim, “It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.”

Do you miss the shout in front of Houston’s DEA headquarters of, “No More! Drug War!” – led by Steve Nolin, then and again, head of Houston’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws but for this 10 year anniversary of the Drug Truth Network…Let me just say: Live…broadcasting from the gulag-filling station of Planet Earth, this is Cultural Baggage – the unvarnished truth about the Drug War.

I want to thank the 95 stations that broadcast our programs in the U.S. and Canada and to welcome our most recent addition, AM1700 in Albany, Oregon. Century of Lies this week will feature much more celebration of the 10 years of the Drug Truth Network and we’ll hear from some radio reporters from DTN’s past as well.

But, for now, I’m proud to welcome another of my “band of brothers” in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. A working constable who’s running for a School Board seat in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, David Bratzer. Thank you for joining us here on Cultural Baggage.

DAVID BRATZER: Thank you, Dean, and congratulations on your 10th anniversary. That’s amazing.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you, David. Yeah, in the beginning I didn’t know who was going to kick in the doors – the cartels or the cops. I think we’re beyond that point now.

Now, David, you have a very interesting story. You had been in law enforcement a few years now and you’ve got a couple of brothers also in law enforcement.

DAVID BRATZER: That’s right. I’ve been a police officer for 6 years here in Victoria, British Columbia and when I’m on-duty I certainly enforce all of the laws to the fullest using the discretion that’s permitted to me under the law but when I’m off-duty quite often I advocate for some laws to be changed because I feel that they’re ineffective and harmful.

So, specifically, the laws around drug possession and trafficking because I view a better approach would be to legalize, regulate and control those substances. Personally I feel that if Canada and the United States did that it would launch an economic war against some of these drug cartels that are out there by removing the profits from the black market.

I’m always very careful to say when I go on a show like this that my opinions are my own and they certainly don’t represent my employer – the police department. I always make it clear that I’m speaking independently.

DEAN BECKER: Yes and for those members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that are still “walking the beat”, so to speak, it is important to draw that distinction.

Now, David, you drew that distinction when you spoke to the Canadian Senate. We’ve been trying to follow the change in laws up there, the reach toward mandatory-minimums. Why don’t you tell us a bit about that visit to the Canadian Senate.

DAVID BRATZER: It’s been a real journey, actually, to watch this legislative situation unfold. Our current government in Canada which is the Conservative party had been trying to bring in mandatory-minimum sentences for low-level drug offences for a long time.

I think it started with Bill C-26 which didn’t pass and eventually became Bill C-15 in 2009. I actually received an invitation from the Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to go before that committee in Ottawa and give my viewpoint on that bill as a representative of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

So I did. I managed to find the time off work and I got on a plane and, you know Canada’s a big country, so I flew a couple thousand miles to Ottawa and I had the chance to present to the senate committee. You’re listeners can certainly find that on YouTube.

I explained that I felt that this bill would be ineffective and I talked about some of the issues that it would cause in terms of increasing rather than decreasing crime, disease, addiction and death related to the black market for illegal drugs.

I said my piece and I was respectful but I certainly didn’t pull any punches. I was quite surprised to hear later when that same senate committee called me back. I was actually quite honored to be called back to the Senate. I was asked to testify once again before the next version of this bill (the original bill didn’t pass) – they brought in a new one called F10 and I had the opportunity to go back, once again, and testify about that bill.

I was able to provide the committee with some new information. For example, the Vienna declaration that they hadn’t received before so I think it was a positive experience.

DEAN BECKER: You know, David, I find that politicians, most of them, are rather ignorant – maybe willingly so, in some cases – in regard to the structure, the beginnings, the “advances” of these drug laws and it is necessary that they hear from somebody who’s been out “walking the beat”, from somebody who knows the frailties of this system of drug prohibition, right?

DAVID BRATZER: You’re absolutely right. Certainly, it was an amazing opportunity for me to be able to go to the senate committee as a serving member of law enforcement, while off-duty, and give my views on that bill.

Now, you know, I think there has been a real ground swell over the past couple of years in terms of awareness both in terms of the general public and our politicians when it comes to understanding that the Drug War has failed. Believe it or not, I first came on your show October 1st, 2008 so we’re talking three years ago now since I’ve been on your show and I think there has been, in terms of increase in general awareness, I think there has been a real shift.

I see benefits in British Columbia from that from that continued advocacy from people like you and me. For example, we had Justice Roth Lander who has recently joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition in the last year as a member of the Advisory Board and he’s a retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice. So, you know when you’re bringing people of that caliber on board that you’re really doing something right in terms of getting your message out.

DEAN BECKER: That brings to mind the fact that just a few months ago the Global Commission on Drugs came forward with their recommendations to just basically change the whole structure of this. The only response from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency was to say these current and former presidents, head of the U.N. and all these other people were, “misguided.” They don’t have a whole response other than to just denigrate the opposition, right?

DAVID BRATZER: Yes and it is frustrating at times because somebody like me, for example, I have to be very careful to always…whenever I speak out in terms of advocacy I have to make sure that it’s off-duty whereas these institutions of law enforcement that are trying to do the same, they have the luxury of using their work time and using their on-duty resources to get their message out. It does seem a little bit unfair, at times, but that’s just the way it is and we have to work around that.

DEAN BECKER: I was looking at your bio on the LEAP website (http://leap.cc) …David or I or one of our more than 100 speakers will come and talk to your organization. It may take us a time to figure out the logistics but we will come speak to you without you having to pay us. I guess that’s the point, David, we, as LEAP speakers, it’s our duty, if you will, to inform people to the futility to this now approaching 100-year war.

Within your bio you were talking about the gentleman, Willie Pickton, and, I don’t know, there were a movie up in Canada where they were actually feeding people to the pigs and I don’t know if it was based on that situation but tell us about that and your observations in that regard.

DAVID BRATZER: He’s been convicted since then in the murders of a number of these women who went missing in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Essentially he was a serial killer. What is remarkable about him is the victims that he chose were living in Vancouver’s downtown eastside which is known, essentially as the poorest postal code in all Canada. It’s an area that is rife with issues of poverty and drug- crime, trafficking. It’s only a couple of blocks from downtown Vancouver but it is home to thousands and thousands of intravenous drug users.

What was, I guess, interesting about Pickton is that he deliberately chose victims, females, who were living and working in the downtown eastside. In many cases prostitutes or in many cases these women had problems with drug addiction and so that was kind of a “light bulb” moment for me back in 2008 when I first started to think about speaking publically against the Drug War.

That was one of the key issues was seeing what Pickton had done to these women and the vulnerable positions that they had been placed in because of prohibition. Now since then, unfortunately, you know – it’s tragic – but, there’s been a number of other “light bulb” moments or events that have happened.

You can look at Vancouver had a gang war. We’ve seen, since 2006, the thousands of people, I think it’s up to 40,000 people now, in Mexico who are murdered as a result of drug war violence in that country due to President Calderon’s drug war.

At the time, back in 2008, what was kind of like an all-powerful moment for me of understanding, unfortunately, has become sort of common in that we’ve had these other mega-tragedies, if you will, that relate to the issue of prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: You mentioned the situation in Mexico and there is a city down there, I believe it is Ciudad Juarez, where killings are taking place not just over turf or battles or money or weed or whatever but they basically entice and kidnap young women, they hold them for a while, they rape them, they use them up, so to speak, and they bury them in the desert, some several thousand, and the truth is they’ve arrested a few people but the killings continue and it’s representative of the fact that, in Mexico, less than 5% of murders every have anybody arrested, let alone convicted.

It is the fracturing of the law enforcement capacity to do the job which, originally, we were all supposed to be doing, right? But we’re out there chasing little “Janie” and “Johnny” for weed, here in America, and maybe they’re chasing down certain of these cartel members in Mexico but they’re not really providing safety and security for the populace. Your response, David Bratzer.

DAVID BRATZER: I think you’re absolutely right. Even President Calderon recently has hinted that he understands that legalization is the answer. He hasn’t explicitly called for legalization because I think that would put him in a difficult position with his relationship with the United States government.

What he has suggested is that there may be a need for “market alternatives” and I think anybody who reads between the lines will understand that what he’s really talking about there is clearly alternatives to prohibition. Creating some kind of marketplace where these drugs can be legally produced, distributed and consumed in as controlled and safe of manner as possible.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to bring some folks to bear…we’ve got a few minutes left here and I want to talk about something. Over the years we in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and probably folks at Drug Policy Alliance and others have tried to convince politicians to make these changes to better protect our children. If you can’t convince them – maybe you need to replace them. And that’s what you’re going to be doing, we hope, here soon, right?

You’re running for as a School Board candidate up there in Victoria. Tell us about that effort.

DAVID BRATZER: You’re right and I think as a drug policy reformer what I’ve decided to do…clearly I’ve been active at the national level in Canada trying to oppose some of these mandatory-minimum drug sentencing laws that are going to be coming into effect but what I really realized is that if you want to change a society 20 years from now you really have to start with the education system and so this fall I’m standing for election to the local school board here in Victory.

It may seem like a small thing. You get school boards all over the place but what’s interesting is that I’m not running away from the issue of drug policy reform now that I’m campaigning for school board. In fact, I’m really embracing it. The theme of my campaign is “Fund schools now or build prisons later.” I think that really encapsulates what is happening with Canada.

We are about to embark, federally, on a multi-billion dollar prison building spree over the next couple of years while at the very same time, in Canada, school districts are struggling to have money for pens and papers and simple office supplies. So that’s the theme of my campaign.

Of course there’s local issues - you can’t be a single-issue candidate when you step into politics. There are issues around funding for students with special educational needs. For example, there’s issues of labor relations. I’ve been going to school board meetings in Victoria for the past two years. Just sitting in the audience trying to learn about the key issues in education in this district.

I feel like I have a good handle on these issues but as somebody with a background in policing, as somebody who’s advocated for justice reform – I think I can really advocate for more changes is I do get into elected office. This is a part-time position so I’ll be able to continue working as a police officer if I am elected.

What I think it will do, if I am elected, is it will finally solve this dilemma…you know there’s always been this issue when I speak about the need for criminal law changes am I representing my department, am I representing myself? I think it will be clear, if I am elected, because I will be representing the people of the community who democratically elected me.

So I feel good about it. In fact, if you’re listeners are interested they’re welcome to visit my facebook page which is http://www.facebook.com/davidbratzer and I’ll be posting updates throughout the campaign.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve got a few stations in Canada and I apologize for not keeping up with it but I’m fairly certain that the folks in Nanaimo have a station. Is that near enough that they could hear it in Victoria?

DAVID BRATZER: Absolutely. It’s about an hour and a half drive away and it’s actually close enough to Victoria where I live that I’ve driven up a couple of times. I’ve given presentations to criminal justice classes at Vancouver Island University and so I have some contacts there and there’s certainly opportunities in Nanaimo and if they want to get in touch with me – there are definitely opportunities to help with the campaign.

The other thing I want to say to all of your Canadian listeners is Happy Thanksgiving. Here in Canada this is our Thanksgiving weekend so after this interview I’m going to go eat a big turkey dinner and I just wanted to say to all the Canadian listeners that I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

DEAN BECKER: That’s great, David. Ya’ll beat us by more than a month.

I wanted to ask, as a working cop I’m sure there are situations where, as you say you have to follow the law, but there are situations where justice is not serving the community perhaps not serving the individual because of the mandates of law. Again, I’m not saying you don’t follow the law, I’m just saying does it aggravate you sometimes? Do you find it grating to fulfill every obligation?

DAVID BRATZER: Clearly my view are the drug laws in Canada are ineffective and when I am on-duty there is room for something called discretion which is a tool that is available to police officers.

What discretion is is basically it’s the expectation that if police officers enforced every single law, whether it’s a federal law or a state-level statute or even a municipal bylaw, you’d never be able to drive from A to B without … your whole day would be taken up with minor traffic infractions. So, there is room for discretion in policing. In fact, discretion is vital to effective law enforcement.

I would even argue that another word for discretion is wisdom. So when we talk about discretion in law enforcement what we’re really talking about or encouraging police officers to be is to make wise decisions in terms of charge or no charge when it comes to an offender. Arrest or don’t arrest when they have an opportunity to interact with somebody on the street.

I like to think that I make effective use of discretion and I’ve certainly seen many other officers who do the same. It is something that is very important in law enforcement.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, David. We’ve been speaking with Mr. David Bratzer, a working constable out of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. David, before we go, one more time your website.

DAVID BRATZER: http://www.facebook.com/davidbratzer. Join the facebook page and drop me a note and I’ll write you back. Thank you so much.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, David.
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(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Ventricular fibrillation, vasoconstriction, inhibition of the pump, increased concentration of calcium in sarcoplasm of cardiac cell, a positive inotropic effect that is caused by digitalis…

{{{ gong }}}

Time’s up!

The answer MEODMT, piedra, lovestone, Jamaican stone or chinese rock from Bufo alvarius, skin of the toad. The doctors say the safest and surest way is not to eat it or lick it and sure as hell not to smoke it, but simply to sniff it. Otherwise, you could wind up dead.

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PHILIP GUFFY: This is Phiip Guffy, sometimes engineer for Cultural Baggage and Century of Lies. For ten years Dean has been broadcasting the truth about the Drug War across Houston and the world. And while the failed policies still continue, progress has been made.

More and more candidates and elected officials are speaking out for change. More and more media outlets are starting to ask the right questions. The Drug Truth Network has been a key voice calling for common sense reforms to our failed drug policy for ten years now.

If we keep up the pressure, if we keep up the truth – I know we can end this misguided, counterproductive war on our own citizens.

So to Dean – thank you and congratulations for ten years of hard work. To the listeners – keep fighting and spread the word. Together we can make a difference.

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GLENN GREENWAY: My name is Glenn Greenway and for several years I provided the Drug Truth Network with Poppygate updates, a regular feature that tried to connect the dots between U.S. occupied Afghanistan heroin bonanza, the resultant misery that continues to afflict the world and the U.S. Drug War.

Dean was an early believer in my work and invited me to join the DTN in 2004. We quickly became good friends. It turns out we’re having two 10-year anniversaries this month. So as we celebrate 10 years of the Drug Truth Network let us also mourn the decade of war on Afghanistan.

Sadly both the Afghan war and Poppygate continue full-tilt. Peace appears to be increasingly distant while the administration dutifully reports our so-called progress. The lives of the Afghan people have not improved.

The country continues to produce an order of magnitude more heroin than the rest of the world combined. This year’s opium crop was damaged by natural blight, dramatically increasing the farmgate price of opium - all but insuring an especially rich bounty next spring.

According to the U.N. intravenous heroin use in Afghanistan is driving a concentrated HIV epidemic. The U.S. Justice Department’s most recent drug threat assessment says a supply of fresh heroin from Afghanistan is driving down the drug’s price in Missouri. In St. Louis, fatal heroin overdoses have doubled in the last four years.

With one hand America continues its heartless drug war and with the other enables the introduction of a million pounds of heroin into world markets each year. For each American arrested for violating cannabis laws, another pound of Afghan junk gets shot into the global pipeline.

Connect the dots.

I thank you, Dean Becker, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me a role in the DTN. Congratulations to all who make the Drug Truth Network happen – reporters, engineers, and especially listeners. Congratulations on 10 great years and highest hopes for 10 more.

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DEAN BECKER: And, again, Mary Jane Borden, editor, Drug War Facts.

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MARY JANE BORDEN: I count myself among the lucky few drug policy aficionados who have known Dean Becker for just about all of the 10 years he has broadcast his brilliant Drug Truth Network. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dean in his capacities both as Advisor to DrugSense/MAP for which I serve as Secretary of the Board, and as the broadcaster of my weekly Question of the Week segments for Drug War Facts for which I now serve as Editor. In July, I surpassed my 50th Question of the Week, and my bet is that these segments lead the pack in terms of the number of repeat programs on his shows. But more importantly, the best part has been to be able to count these segments among Dean’s interviews with the best and brightest minds in drug policy. There is no journalist on any major network in any area of the world who has personally spoken on air with more experts, politicians or victims of the drug war than Dean, nor has any other broadcaster drawn more consistent, long-term attention to drug war injustices than he. I’m proud to call him a colleague and friend in this struggle for social justice.

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[ country music intro ]

DEAN BECKER: I’ve got 99 bullets in my gun
I’m gonna put those dirty hippies on the run

Class war they want – they will get
I’ll buy a billion more bullets for their heads

Rich man’s greed will make him dead
Each poor man’s got a single bullet for his head

Class war is such a bitch
But now it’s payback time for the rich

And the final score is 99 to 1

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DEAN BECKER: Alright, I ain’t been to an occupy Wall Street event yet but my heart’s there. 99-to-1 is gonna be that final score. Trust me folks.

I want to thank all those folks for their good tributes to me. Mary Jane Borden’s Drug War Facts will be Monday’s 420 report. We heard from a couple of the engineers. Steve Nolin was my first engineer. You heard from Philip Guffy and sitting across from my right now I want to thank Laura Slavin for all her great work and for making me sound credible and loud and all those good things.

I want to thank David Bratzer also, the working constable up there in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I want to thank you, dear listeners, for being what you are. You’re there for me all the time and I appreciate it. I want you to do your part. I close this out with a thought, I always do, that because of prohibition – you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.

My birthday was yesterday and today’s the birthday of an inspiration of mine. Another seeker of truth – John Lennon.

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[ music ]

JOHN LENNON: I'm sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky
Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocketful of hope
Money for dope
Money for rope

[ guitar wailing ]

DEAN BECKER: As always, this show produced at the studios of KPFT. Do your part, friends.

No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky
Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocketful of hope
Money for dope
Money for rope

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Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison ( Rock on, Dean!! : )