Charlottetown police are apologizing and promising to update the force's uniform policy after an officer appeared in a social media post intended to support P.E.I. Pride Week wearing a thin blue line patch.
The photo showed three officers with multicoloured letters spelling out "police" on their uniforms, with the caption "Sporting our rainbow police patches in support of #Pride2022 #prideweek."
One of the officers was also sporting a thin blue line patch, which some police members have been wearing as a symbol of solidarity and respect for the force, as well as a memorial to fallen colleagues.
However, the patch is also seen by many as an offensive symbol with ties to racism and white supremacy. The RCMP and several municipal police services in Canada have banned it as a symbol for officers to wear.
Charlottetown police removed the photo from Twitter, and posted another tweet apologizing for the "blunder."
That second tweet was later deleted as well.
In a statement Thursday to CBC, Charlottetown Deputy Chief Jennifer McCarron said that while the officer in question "had no ill intent in wearing this badge and was wearing it in an effort to support officers who have been injured or killed in the line of duty, it is clear that the history and controversy surrounding this symbol, specifically its racist and extremist origins, is not in line with the protective and community-based services CPS aims to provide all residents of Charlottetown."
We promise to continue to educate ourselves and do better. — Deputy Chief Jennifer McCarron
McCarron said Charlottetown Police Services managers are taking "immediate action" to strengthen the force's uniform policy in order to be inclusive.
"To those individuals offended by this photo or by the idea of our officers wearing this symbol, we sincerely apologize, and we promise to continue to educate ourselves and do better so that we can remain focused on providing high-quality policing services that residents of Charlottetown expect," McCarron's statement continued.
Doug King, a professor in justice studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said officers across Canada need to understand the racial undertones of the patch.
"Symbols communicate ideas, and one has to be really cautious that you don't stumble upon a symbol that has ideas that are offensive to people that you are unaware of," he said.