Calgary police told to remove thin blue line patches from uniform

Calgary police have been told they will no longer be allowed to wear thin blue line patches on their uniforms, the Calgary Police Commission said Wednesday.

Police say the patch honours fallen officers — but for others it's a symbol of white supremacy

On-duty Calgary police officers will not be permitted to wear these patches starting Thursday. (Amazon)

Calgary police will no longer be allowed to wear thin blue line patches on their uniforms, the Calgary Police Commission decided Wednesday.

The decision takes effect Thursday and means that on-duty police will not be permitted to wear Canadian flag patches with a thin blue line through them. 

The symbol means different things to different people, said Amtul Siddiqui, vice-chair, Calgary Police Commission. 

"To members of the police service — to some of them — it's a way to honour the fallen, and we understand that completely and to represent the familyhood of policing," she said. 

"But we also know that to some people, the symbol actually does represent something evil and horrible." 

The commission said the thin blue line has been featured prominently in many high-profile protests that espoused white nationalist or racist views, and has been prominently displayed at counter-protests against the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The symbol was popularized by Chief William H. Parker of the Los Angeles Police Department, who expressed views and policies that caused accusations of police brutality and racism, the commission said. 

Just taking off the thin blue line patch does not mean they're changing their behaviour.-  Adora Nwofor,  Black Lives Matter YYC

While the thin blue line patch was never an approved part of the Calgary Police Service uniform, officers were allowed to wear it while discussions were underway. Those discussions took about a year.

The commission also said the patches will need to be replaced with "a symbol that better reflects the values of Calgarians," though it did not elaborate on what that would look like. 

Black Lives Matter YYC president says patch removal a start

"I'm definitely happy that the patches are being removed. It is the smallest thing that could be done, but if you can't do the small things, how are we going to do the big thing?" said Adora Nwofor, president, Black Lives Matter YYC. 

She said the removal of the patch is a much-needed step toward helping people feel safer around the police, but more effort is needed from the police. 

"Police need to add an apology, because if this thing has created enough negative impact that they need to remove it, why are we not talking about the impact and how they can change such impact," she said. 

"That's how change happens, changing the behaviour that is attached to these things. Just taking off the thin blue line patch does not mean they're changing their behaviour." 

The head of the Calgary Police Association, John Orr, told the Calgary Herald that there will be resistance to removing the patch, calling it a important symbol that's strongly supported among members of the police union. 

Police honouring 'fallen,' chief says

Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld had previously defended thin blue line patches, while admitting the symbol has racist connotations. 

On Wednesday in a press release he said: "I know how much the thin blue line patch means to the members of the Calgary Police Service and their families." 

"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 police press release said community engagement showed some understood the significance of the thin blue line patch to police officers and their families, though others feel the symbol represents the history of colonialization, and more recently, the emboldening of white supremacy groups.