On-duty Calgary Police Service (CPS) officers have been directed to replace the controversial Thin Blue Line patch with a symbol that’s more representative of Calgarians’ values.
That’s the decision that came down from the Calgary Police Commission, the citizen oversight body for the CPS.
The Thin Blue Line use was defended last March by Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld, citing it as symbolic of justice, bravery and service to the community. Chief Neufeld also acknowledged that it has a different perception with many communities.
The Chief issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, reiterating it must be removed.
“I know how much the thin blue line patch means to the members of the Calgary Police Service and their families,” said Chief Neufeld.
“While I understand there has been valid community concern over the use of the patch and its roots in colonialism and its more recent co-opting by White Supremacy organizations, I can confidently say that not a single member who put that patch on their uniform meant anything other than to show pride in their profession, and to honour the fallen.”
The CPC said they’re aware of the negative connotation of the symbols to some Calgarians.
“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,” said Calgary Police Commission Chair Shawn Cornett.
“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,” added Chair Cornett.
‘Long overdue’ said Coun. Courtney Walcott
The police commission acknowledged that many families wear the thin blue line to honour fallen officers. It also recognizes the special role that police have in society.
“We know members of the Service support the principles of community policing, being committed to those they serve and nurturing trust,” said Chair Cornett.
“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.”
Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott, who sits on the Calgary Police Commission, said a commitment was made two years ago to be anti-racist. Removing symbols like this, he said is “an easy decision that was long overdue.”
“If we are to truly be responsive to the communities we serve, holding on to symbols that carry a painful legacy and easily misconstrued meanings would be counter to the commitments we have all made,” he said.
New symbol possible
The city’s two police associations and Beyond the Blue have been asked to work with an independent creative agency on a new symbol.
Walcott said he acknowledges the attachment to the symbol as an honour to fallen officers and the responsibilities of the service.
“I look toward the opportunity presented for members of the police service and the community to support the creation of a new symbol outside of the shadow cast by the Thin Blue Line,” he said.
The Thin Blue Line was never approved for officers to wear, the CPC said. The new symbol would be authorized.
Officers are expected to stop wearing it by the end of the month.
We have reached out to the Calgary Police Association via email, but haven’t yet received a response.
The Thin Blue Line is tied to former Los Angeles police Chief William H. Parker and his attempt to address corruption by discouraging officers from working with their communities.
During that time, he implemented policies that made racialized people feel targeted, and, according to the Calgary Police Commission, helped contribute to the 1965 Watts Riot.