At the Calgary Police Commission public meeting on Tuesday, President Bonita Croft said the public had raised concerns about CPS officers wearing the symbol. “We know these patches have been controversial and are seen by some to have racist overtones,” she said, asking Police Chief Mark Neufeld to explain how the force responds to this perception of the meaning of the thin blue line symbol.
The chief said the thin blue line on the badge has been a part of policing in Calgary and beyond for years.
“The thin blue line symbolizes the ideals of justice, bravery and service to the community. It also pays tribute to our fallen officer brothers and sisters, ”he said.
However, in recent years, Neufeld said it has become very clear that badges represent different things to different people.
“Perhaps this is because it has also become clear that at least in the United States this particular symbol has been appropriated, at least to some extent, by white nationalist groups and has appeared in various high-level demonstrations and gatherings where there was racism. and intolerance. ”
The chief said some Canadian police organizations recently ordered officers not to display this badge on their uniforms, and internal conversations about how the CPS would deal with this issue of uniform imagery have started, but have continued. was suspended late last year with the homicide of Sgt. Andrew Harnett.
“The symbol, I would say, is positive from the perspective of the Canadian police service and certainly from the perspective of the Calgary police service and in fact it was used in some elements of the ceremony to honor the contributions of the sergeant. Harnett.
But Neufeld said the PSC plans to continue those discussions with external advisory committees and its Anti-Racism Advisory Committee in the days and weeks to come.
“One of the questions I suspect you will consider is whether there are opportunities for members to wear alternative symbols that don’t have the same connotations,” Croft said.
“As the PSC itself acknowledged… regarding the flag incident just a week ago, the symbols are very important. ”
Neufeld said he saw this as an opportunity to have “a two-way education”.
“I think there is an opportunity for a conversation that takes place outside of social media that really helps us understand what this symbol is causing for people in the Calgary context and also for us to share information with. the community on what it really means and where it came into play within the Calgary Police Department, ”he said.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a nuanced conversation where our people can find out where this symbol has been vilified. Can it be rehabilitated? I don’t know the answer to that. It will come in the conversation. ”
These are also conversations taking place nationally with the RCMP which banned it and also locally with other services banning it in Canada.– Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra
Neufeld said many people on social media were upset with the use of the symbol.
“Say if you wear these symbols you should be fired, you are racist, you are fascist and all that stuff. I don’t believe that, quite frankly, ”he said. “That’s not how we view this badge within the organization, and I have a reputation within the organization for holding officers accountable for their fault. But I also think it’s very important that we don’t punish them for the things they don’t have. not done. ”
But Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra warned the chef against qualifying as a conversation on social media.
“These are also conversations taking place nationally with the RCMP who banned it and also locally with other services banning it in Canada,” he said.
“Sometimes anti-racism is about being proactive and being sensitive to conversations within the community.”
Neufeld said this discussion would be very close to home for many officers, some of whom have the thin blue line symbol tattooed on their bodies.
“In fact they said they rightly believe it was a good thing and in fact I would say it was a very good thing when they did and there was nothing wrong with that, ”he said.
“There have been changes, obviously, in the perception of these symbols over time… and if it’s an offensive symbol to the community, I don’t think that’s what we ultimately want either. . ”