Days after an order from the police service’s citizen oversight board, some Calgary Police officers continue to wear the thin blue line patch on their uniforms.
Last week, the Calgary Police Commission announced its decision to no longer allow officers to wear the patch on their uniforms while on duty.
The commission said it came to the decision after a year of deliberations and consultations, and said the patch “has a contentious history with roots in division, colonialism and racism.”
Adam Massiah, with the United Black Peoples Allyship, was present for the consultations with diversity groups and the anti-racism action committee.
“We made it very clear that to racialized communities, Black and Indigenous Calgarians, this symbol is directly offensive and is in exact contradiction to the idea Black people’s’ lives have value,” Massiah said. “I understand they see it as a symbol to commemorate their fallen officers.”
It is in that spirit that many officers are defying the order, after the Calgary Police Association distributed “countless” thin blue line patches to police officers and civilian service members in response.
The Calgary Police Association did not respond to Global News’ request for comment on Monday.
Last week, association president John Orr said they don’t believe the symbol is divisive and accused some members of the commission of being anti-police.
Orr called the patch a “critically important symbol” for officers and their families in “remembrance of our fallen officers.”
According to Ward 8 councillor and commission member Courtney Walcott, any disciplinary action for officers disobeying the order would be the responsibility of Calgary’s police chief.
The police commission said CPS leadership worked to try and “obtain voluntary compliance.”
“The chief is the person who has the discretion to determine how to enforce his orders,” Walcott said. “It will be a question that will be posed to him at commission about what are the next steps for those who have chosen to disobey the voluntary compliance aspect of this.”
Walcott said he hopes to ask several questions at Wednesday’s scheduled police commission meeting to seek clarity for the public on the events of last week.
“They, of course, know the emotional weight of it as officers, but do they know the emotional weight behind it for the public?” Walcott said.
“If they do, then that speaks a lot to the decisions that are being made that conversations have to be had at commission.”
But experts believe any enforcement or disciplinary action could present another set of challenges due to policy in the Police Service Regulation and the sheer number of officers continuing to wear the patch.
According to Kelly Sundberg, a criminologist and professor at Mount Royal University, cases of insubordination must be dealt with on an individual basis and not in an “omnibus” fashion.
“It will grind the professional standards process to to a halt,” Sundberg told Global News. “The only thing I can see is that there’s going to have to be serious discussion, perhaps mediation and exploration.”
The Calgary Police Service also did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.
Sundberg said he is concerned the decision by Calgary’s police commission reflects “the reality in the United States,” which he said is “not entirely accurate or correct within the Canadian context.”
“Because of this conflation of trying to fit the American reality into the Calgary reality, this has caused a lot of concerns among the policing community,” Sundberg said.
—with files from 770 CHQR’s Paula Tran
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