No consequences after unauthorized thin blue line decal removed from marked Calgary police car

·3 min read
In a photo shared with CBC News, a thin blue line decal is seen on the back of a marked Calgary Police Service cruiser. Chief Mark Neufeld says there are no thin blue line insignias authorized for use on police vehicles.  (Submitted to CBC News - image credit)
In a photo shared with CBC News, a thin blue line decal is seen on the back of a marked Calgary Police Service cruiser. Chief Mark Neufeld says there are no thin blue line insignias authorized for use on police vehicles. (Submitted to CBC News - image credit)

A thin blue line sticker has been removed from a Calgary Police Service (CPS) vehicle after questions from CBC News alerted CPS to its existence.

Photos shared with CBC News show the insignia placed near the taillight of a marked police SUV.

In a statement, CPS said they were not aware of this particular use of the emblem until asked about it at a Calgary Police Commission meeting on Wednesday.

"The vehicle was immediately located and the sticker removed," wrote CPS. "This should not have occurred and we offer our regrets and apologize."

Submitted to CBC News
Submitted to CBC News

CPS said it is unclear who applied the sticker.

When asked if there would be any reprimand or consequence for violating the commission's order, a CPS spokesperson responded that it would be "almost impossible to figure [out] who put that sticker on there as dozens of members share those vehicles."

"We can't even determine when it was put [on] there."

Symbol 'not authorized' on uniforms or vehicles 

At a police commission meeting earlier this week, Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld emphasized that there is no thin blue line insignia authorized for use on police vehicles.

"When it comes to uniforms, when it comes to vehicles, when it comes to this type of thing, we have standards that are put together by fleet and facilities or a uniform committee," said Neufeld.

"Anything that's not specifically been approved to be present there would not be authorized."

But Neufeld also suggested that thin blue line insignias for vehicles were not specified within the commission's order to stop wearing the symbol.

"It wouldn't be, technically, something recognized within the policy the way that it came out."

In a statement, the commission says they are "very happy" with compliance so far.

"We are disappointed by this news but are confident the chief, whose responsibility it is to enforce our direction, will handle the situation appropriately."

Open resistance to commission order 

The symbol became an openly contentious issue this year after the commission directed officers to stop wearing thin blue line patches beginning March 31.

But the Calgary Police Association encouraged their members to continue, sending out patches and pins as well as issuing a directive to defy the order.

That struggle led to a grace period for officers to continue wearing the patch without reprimand while its use was discussed.

Eventually, the union representing more than 2,000 officers "reluctantly" recommended removing the patches, expressing their belief that discipline may be on the way for those resisting the order.

Alberta's Police Act grants approval power over uniforms and insignias used by Calgary police officers solely to the commission.

Context and controversy 

The patch is defended by its advocates as a well-intentioned token to honour fallen members and express support for those who serve.

Alternatively, the commission has explained that the symbol of a darkened Canadian flag with a blue line struck through it inherently depicts a division in society with police on one side and citizens on the other which "fails to reflect the fundamental principle in Canadian policing that 'the police are the public and the public are the police'."

In the commission's statement to CBC News, they said they know that Calgary's police officers wear the thin blue line to "express positive things."

"But we stand by our decision aimed at making sure no Calgarian is faced with approaching a police officer displaying a symbol connected with other very divisive and racist movements."

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