Calgary, Alberta, CANADA – The Calgary Police Commission announced on Thursday that officers have to remove the Thin Blue Line patch on their uniforms or face consequences.
“We know members of the Service support the principles of community policing, being committed to those they serve and nurturing trust,” Calgary Police Commission Chair Shawn Cornett said in a press release.
“Members have also told us through engagement surveys that they are committed to addressing racial injustice and being respectful and compassionate towards all Calgarians, even those who do not reflect the views of the majority,” she said.
“People in our community have clearly expressed that the thin blue line patch on police officers makes them uncomfortable due to its history and current use by groups opposing racial equity,” Cornett continued. “As policing evolves, so must its symbols. Discontinuing the use of a symbol that is undermining some Calgarians’ trust in the police is the right thing to do.”
The commission said it was committed to fulfilling its promise to address systemic racism in Calgary policing and called the elimination of the Thin Blue Line patch on officers’ uniforms part of that promise.
The Thin Blue Line patch has never officially been approved for Calgary police uniforms but began appearing after they were given body armor that had places to stick the patches, according to the press release.
The police commission said all officers were expected to remove the Thin Blue Line patch from their uniforms by April 1.
“The thin blue line also fails to reflect the fundamental principle in Canadian policing that, ‘the police are the public and the public are the police,’” the press release read. “While there are differing interpretations about what the thin blue line divides, visually it divides society into good people and the enemies of good people. It portrays a view where police exist separate from the community along a battle line where the people police deal with become adversaries of – not part of – our community.”
“This ‘us verses them’ battle line depiction of policing inherent in the thin blue line is not consistent with the modern understanding that our world is not so easily divided into good and bad people. In most cases, public safety comes from the police joining with others in their community to collaboratively address the root causes of crime and to help those in crisis,” the Calgary Police Commission said.
The commission said it didn’t matter what meaning was behind the patch because it was offensive to minorities and others who didn’t understand it.
“Even when police officers wearing the thin blue line patch are not meaning to support racist and divisive views, the connection to recent events and the visually divisive image of the symbol has an impact on people of colour and others who are not sure which of the many different meanings an officer is trying to express,” the press release read.
Calgary Police Association President John Orr said that the 2,000 Calgary police officers in its membership were not going to take the commission’s edict lying down, CBC reported.
“We encourage each and every one of you to wear this important symbol in defiance of the order from the commission,” Orr wrote in a letter to members.
He told CBC that the order was a direct attack on the memories of fallen officers.
“We were very disappointed with the decision to ban the wearing of the Thin Blue Line patch,” Orr said. “It’s a symbol of great importance to our members and it speaks to a number of important issues, including remembrance for our fallen, a show of support to one another and a very difficult job, which has long- and short-term health implications for our members.”
“It also shows our commitment to the community and being there for them on their most difficult days,” he added.
Orr said the Calgary Police Association had “purchased a sufficient number of TBL patches for all our uniformed members, as well as TBL lapel pins for those working in plain clothes” in anticipation of the commission’s announcement, CBC reported.
Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, a police commission member, said on Thursday that his group planned to enforce the ban.
“What we are asking here is that our police service not wear a known hate symbol whose origins are buried in hateful thoughts and hateful deeds when they serve the public,” Carra said. “If we have members of the service who think that whatever sense of entitlement they have trumps that, there will be a reckoning.”