Calgary police have been ordered by the police board to replace the thin blue lines with a symbol that better reflects Calgarian values.
The thin blue line, a symbol originally created to commemorate fallen officers, has a divisive history rooted in anti-black and anti-indigenous racism. The symbol has been prominently displayed during counter-protests against the Black Lives Matter movement, such as the protests over the death of George Floyd in the United States.
The patches were also worn by the RCMP at the old growth protests near Fairy Creek in British Columbia.
The Calgary Police Commission said it regularly appeared on uniforms when officers were issued body armor that allows them to attach patches. Officers will be required to replace the crests with a symbol that better reflects Calgarians’ values, read a press release issued Wednesday.
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“I think it’s important to know that we know that the police are part of our community and that the community values them very much. What we really want to do is find a symbol that we can all feel comfortable with,” said Commission Vice President Amtul Siddiqui.
“This symbol has been around for decades, so it’s not something new, and it has a long history and roots in colonialism and racism.”
The decision comes after a year-long consultation process led by the Calgary Police Service aimed at addressing racial injustice in the city. According to the release, it included conversations with the two Calgary police associations as well as various CPS committees and advisory boards, such as the force’s anti-racism action committee.
Beyond the Blue, an organization that supports local police families and CPS leadership was also consulted.
“We wanted to be very thorough in the process. We spoke to service members and various community groups to get their feedback and have many conversations about this,” Siddiqui said.
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The Calgary Police Commission has invited officers and their families to create a new symbol for officers to wear.
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However, Calgary Police Association president John Orr said he declined the invitation, adding that police would defy the order.
“This symbol is an extremely important symbol for our members. This is recognition and remembrance of our fallen officers,” Orr said.
“People who have suggested it means otherwise, in my opinion, are incorrect… We will be encouraging our members to continue to wear it despite orders from the commission today.”
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CPS chief Mark Neufeld has previously defended the symbol, saying it is a long-standing symbol of justice, bravery and community service.
Many black activists say this change is long overdue. Adam Massiah, a community relations adviser for the City of Calgary, said he was disappointed the police department removed the patches not because they wanted to, but because they were ordered to.
“It was not done on the good will of the chief. He wanted to stand by the symbol and allow his officers to continue to wear it despite all the engagement, consultation and responses from racialized communities.
“While I understand that the CPS views the blue line as a sign of respect and solidarity for its fallen officers, the symbols change over time.”
“A much larger population of Calgarians view this blue line as an aggressive offensive and in direct opposition to the idea that black people are valuable.”
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Massiah also said he expects backlash within the force and would not be surprised if they continue to post the patch elsewhere. He said police still have a lot of work to do to rebuild relationships with Black, Indigenous and racialized communities.
“I’ve been on the anti-racism action committee for quite a long time. From there, you start to realize that it’s quite performative… Everything seems to fall on deaf ears.
“The relationship between the black community and the CPS has been severed, especially after the death of Latjor Tuel…There are so many things the CPS needs to do, and I’m not entirely convinced they want to make that change,” did he declare. .
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In a press release Wednesday, Neufeld again defended the patch and said he understands how much the patch means to members of the force and their families.
“While I understand there has been valid community concern about the use of the crest and its roots in colonialism and its more recent co-optation by white supremacist organizations, I can say with confidence that not a single member who put this patch on their uniform meant anything other than to show pride in their profession and honor the dead.
“We are committed to listening to and amplifying racialized voices, and while we are committed to doing so, I also recognize how disappointing this decision will be for many of our officers. For them, as for me, this symbol is deeply meaningful and personal,” he said.
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