Victoria police officers who wore the thin blue line symbol on their uniform were asked to remove the unauthorized patch after a social media post prompted complaints.
A photo posted to Twitter in June showed a reserve constable wearing a black Canadian flag patch with a blue line horizontally through the middle. The police department pulled the post after receiving complaints.
The thin blue line symbol relates to the claim that the only thing standing between the public and chaos is police officers, referred to collectively as the thin blue line, said Rob Gordon, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University.
“It’s not an accurate depiction of the way in which society operates,” Gordon said. The symbol is divisive and promotes an “us versus them” mentality, he said.
Michael Young, a professor of justice studies at Royal Roads University, said the thin blue line is used by the police to show solidarity among themselves.
But a perception by the public of “too much solidarity” divides police from those they’re tasked with serving and runs the risk of losing the community’s trust, he said.
To communities that feel negatively affected by policing the thin blue line symbol acts as a reminder of that lack of inclusion, Young said.
In an internal email exchange obtained by citizen Stephen Harrison through a freedom of information request, the reserve sergeant who was photographed wearing the patch and another officer say they were not aware of any negative connotations associated with the symbol. Instead, they say they interpret it as a show of solidarity with officers who have died on the job.
But Gordon said the thin blue line symbol is not about acknowledging or mourning a death, and officers should understand its meaning, but they shouldn’t be wearing the patch.
A VicPD spokesman wrote in an internal email that he would not have approved the photo for a social media post if he had noticed the thin blue line patch.
Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said in an interview the patch is not approved to be worn by VicPD officers, but it was brought to his attention that some officers had been wearing it on their uniforms.
A reminder was sent out to members of the department to remove any unauthorized patches on uniforms following the pulled social media post.
One officer pushed back against the directive, saying officers wear the thin blue line patch to honour fallen officers.
“Yes, these patches are not issued to us by the department, but we wear them proudly, and it lets us and the public know that we stand behind each other and we stand behind our country and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Small gestures such as wearing a thin blue line patch are what help to bind us together and help us to find strength while doing a job that challenges us in ways that we never could have imagined,” the officer, whose name is redacted, wrote in an email.
The department has provided approved Canadian flag patches without the blue line as an option to officers, but the department did not consider providing authorized thin blue line patches, Manak said.
“I think the officers understand that some people in our communities feel that that patch does not speak to impartiality and the police’s ability to work in a community,” he said.
Meanwhile, the union representing RCMP officers nationally is resisting a ruling by the RCMP banning officers from wearing thin blue line patches on their uniforms.
The National Police Federation, which represents 20,000 members of the RCMP across the country, said in a statement they will provide all of their members with thin blue line patches and will support any member that faces disciplinary action as a result of wearing one on their uniform.