SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Police officers in Saint John, N.B., are being told not to wear so-called "thin blue line" patches on their uniforms, emblems that have been forbidden by other police forces in Canada, including the RCMP.
The edict comes after a picture of officers wearing the patch surfaced last week on social media. A woman posted the picture on Twitter but has since locked her account to the public.
Adopted as a sign of solidarity among officers, the patches refer to the concept that police represent a "thin blue line" that maintains law and order and prevents a society from sinking into chaos. The Saint John Police Force had tweeted a picture last September that included one of its officers wearing the patch, which depicted a black and white Canadian flag with a blue line across the middle.
"The Thin Blue Line patch is not issued by the (Saint John Police Force), thus is not part of our uniform and not authorized to wear," the force said in a tweet Friday in response to the social media post. "Uniform standards have been reiterated with members and compliance to the standards are expected."
The RCMP last year directed its members to stop wearing the patch, and the decision faced criticism from organizations like the National Police Federation, which posted to Facebook in October 2020 that officers "should be permitted to take pride in their commitment to protect the thin blue line that keeps communities safer and better."
Saint John Coun. David Hickey says the patches represent an "us versus them" mentality among officers. "For me, it shows an … adversary between the community and between police," Hickey said in an interview Monday.
He pointed to the RCMP's decision to forbid officers from wearing the patch and said several other forces, including the Ottawa Police Service, have made the same call. "I think the standard is truly just about setting a better narrative around building good relationships between police forces and the public," he said.
Hickey said as a city councillor and as the chair of the public safety committee, he was pleased to see the force make a statement about the patches so quickly. "Having it go from a conversation on Twitter to real action happening, I think it's positive and I think it's reflective of the willingness to have the conversation in the city."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.
— By Sarah Smellie in St. John's.
The Canadian Press