The association, which represents more than 2,000 Calgary police officers, is encouraging its members to collectively “take a stand” against a police board order ordering them to no longer wear the controversial thin blue line patch.
In a letter to members obtained by CBC News, Calgary Police Association President John Orr wrote, “We encourage each of you to wear this important symbol in defiance of the commission’s order.
After a year of deliberation, the Calgary Police Commission announced its decision on Wednesday that on-duty police officers are not permitted to wear Canadian flag patches crossed out with a thin blue line.
Spots of thin blue lines used to be associated with white supremacy. The commission said the symbol has been featured in high-profile protests linked to white nationalist or racist views and seen in counter-protests against the Black Lives Matter movement.
For some members of the police department, the crest with the thin blue line represents something completely different – it’s seen as a way to honor the dead.
“We were very disappointed with the decision to ban the wearing of the thin blue line patch. It is a symbol of great importance to our members and it addresses a number of important issues, including the remembrance of our fallen, a show of support for one another and very difficult work, which has long and short term implications for the health of our members,” Orr said in an interview with CBC News.
“It also shows our commitment to the community and our presence for them in their most difficult days.”
In his letter to association members, Orr said the association anticipated this decision from the police board and “purchased a sufficient number of TBL patches for all of our uniformed members, as well as TBL pins for those who work in civilian clothes”.
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Com. Gian-Carlo Carra, who is also a member of the police commission, made it clear on Thursday that the commission would enforce its position on the ban.
“What we are asking here is that our police departments not carry a known hate symbol whose origins are buried in hateful thoughts and actions when serving the public,” he said.
“If we have service members who think the sense of entitlement they have outweighs that, there will be accountability.”
It remains “to be determined” what the consequences will be for officers who choose to wear the patch, he said.
Orr, in his letter, disputes that the patch is a symbol of hate.
“We cannot and will not allow a few people from fringe groups to co-opt this important symbol. To do so would be weak and cowardly,” he wrote.
Please see the following statement on the Calgary Police Commission’s decision regarding the use of the Thin Blue Line crest by serving members of the Calgary Police Service. #yyc https://t.co/dWTRARvHpT
Carra points out that the blue ribbon is more appropriate for recognizing deceased officers.
The police commission said Wednesday that the crest should be replaced with a symbol that “better reflects the values of Calgarians.”
“The Calgary Police Department is trying to co-opt it for something it is not, and we are committed to being anti-racist. Members of our community who understand what this symbol means find it offensive, and they have perfectly entitled to feel that way,” Carra said.
“If you are a public servant serving the safety of our community and … you believe that your privilege to wear this outweighs what this symbol actually means, or what you would like this symbol to mean, outweighs what this symbol actually means – you ‘I’m wrong.’
Orr told CBC News he doesn’t know the exact number of police officers wearing the patch, but “it’s a big number.”
In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Calgary Police Service said it is “currently evaluating all options with a view to obtaining voluntary compliance with the Calgary Police Commission’s order not to wear the thin blue line crest. We will take a measured and balanced approach to this and continually re-evaluate as we navigate this deeply personal issue for our members.”