Windsor police board denies artist permission to use its logo alongside controversial symbols

·4 min read
The Windsor Police Services Board was asked to license its logo to be used on wooden challenge coin display cases, some of which have the controversial Thin Blue Line or are shaped like the Punisher. (Etsy - image credit)
The Windsor Police Services Board was asked to license its logo to be used on wooden challenge coin display cases, some of which have the controversial Thin Blue Line or are shaped like the Punisher. (Etsy - image credit)

The Windsor Police Services Board has denied a request to allow its logo to be used on woodworking crafts that also involve controversial symbols like the Thin Blue Line and the Marvel character, the Punisher.

The coin cases that Alberta woodworker Lucas Braithwaite creates largely involve the two images that have been known to be upsetting to some communities involved in social justice struggles.

Braithwaite wrote to the board requesting permission to use the service logo for sales of the cases to local officers. The proposal, including photos of the products, was discussed during the Windsor Police Service's board meeting Thursday.

The board amended the proposal and allowed the logo to be used as long as it is not alongside any other logo or image, including the Thin Blue Line, the Punisher or the Canadian flag.

The Punisher is a character that is associated with violent vigilantism.

Meanwhile, the Thin Blue Line symbol initially represented the separation between lawfulness and unrest. Police used the symbol to reflect that they maintained that sort of order in society. In recent months, specifically during the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the symbol has brought up conversations of controversy and divisiveness.

"It has always been critiqued for creating an 'Us v Them' narrative, and removes the community from its role in public safety. Many would say that the community should be the central actor for addressing the harms being done to the community," said Black Council of Windsor member Princess Doe in an email to CBC News.

Tahmina Aziz/CBC
Tahmina Aziz/CBC

"Beyond that, the momentum for this symbol of 'police solidarity' as a direct response to Black people's organizing and activism against police brutality should be a sign that this sign is not only misguided, but one that has become increasingly racist in nature."

She added that as a result of this it would be "inappropriate" for the police board to approve the use of their logo.

In the police board meeting Thursday, Windsor police deputy chief of operations Jason Bellaire explained the dual meaning behind the Thin Blue Line.

He said because of the division caused by the symbol, the organization has "made a decision that the conscription of that particular image has become too strong for us to support what its original meaning was."

Following this, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who chairs the police board, said he had "no idea that [it] would have been offensive."

"I certainly don't want to do anything that's going to make the community feel at odds with the police," he said.

Symbolizes 'family' of police force

While Braithwaite says he recognizes the controversy of the symbols, he said that for him it represents the police force looking out for each other.

"Everybody is going to have a different opinion on things and to each their own. Everybody is entitled to that own opinion. Me, personally, I think it's a symbolization of working for the police force and kind of a family that we all work together and stuff like that and we have each other's back," he said.

Braithwaite's proposal asked Windsor police for permission to use the service's crest and shoulder patch for a period of five years.

The proposal notes Braithwaite has had requests from local officers to use the Windsor police crest on his displays.

Chair of Windsor's diversity committee Peter Ijeh told CBC News that he hadn't heard about the proposal and said this is likely because the board doesn't have any "obligation to consult with them."

Braithwaite says he's been running his woodworking company, Beneath The Bark, for almost a year but has been performing the craft for about nine years.

The coin cases are made to hold coins officers typically receive from the different units they have worked in. Some of the pieces also include bullets to hold the coins and can be personalized with an officer's badge number.

The items are also only sold to active or retired police service members.

Dan Taekema/CBC
Dan Taekema/CBC

Since woodworking is a hobby, Braithwaite says he's not looking to make a profit and will often donate his revenue back into the police agency that the person who purchased the item is from.

About 40 police services across Canada have allowed Braithwaite to use their logo, he said.

A number of the services include those in Ontario, such as the Toronto Police Service, North Bay Police Service and London Police Service.

Meanwhile, some others have given him conditional approval. According to Braithwaite, this means that if an officer wants to commission a coin case from him, they have to get approval from their police chief.

Other than Windsor, Braithwaite said that only one other police service has taken issue with putting their logo on a Punisher display.