Commission responds to thin blue line enforcement plan
The Calgary Police Commission’s decision to direct that officers stop wearing thin blue line patches while on-duty was based on the diverse interpretations of what the symbol represents to members of our community. According to the Calgary Police Association’s own survey highlighted during consultations on this issue, only 72 per cent of Calgarians randomly surveyed said they would view it either positively or neutrally if a police officer was wearing the thin blue line patch. This means that up to one in four Calgarians do not view it that way.
“We know Calgary's police officers wear this symbol to express positive things, but we stand by our decision aimed at making sure no Calgarian is faced with approaching a police officer that is displaying a symbol connected with other very divisive and racist movements today and in the past,” said Commission Chair Shawn Cornett. “This has never been a question of whether police officers are wearing the symbol with good intentions, it was a decision taken because the symbol’s meaning is mixed and lands differently on a significant number of people in our city.”
While the Commission’s direction has not changed, it is understood that the road to compliance will take time. The Commission wants, as much as possible, to work with officers to gain voluntary compliance and buy-in rather than enforced compliance.
“This issue is important, but it is far from the only important policing issue in our city. We knew implementing this decision would be difficult and we are committed to doing so, but we support the Chief giving Calgary Police Service members time to work through it,” adds Chair Cornett. “However, citizen oversight of the police is a fundamental principle in modern democracies, and we will need to address the fact that senior officers and police associations are encouraging officers to disregard a lawful direction from their oversight body if this continues.”
In a news conference today, Chief Constable Mark Neufeld also highlighted a breakdown in trust between the Commission and Calgary Police Service members. The Commission has heard this clearly from members and is committed to making changes to improve communication and engagement with Calgary’s police officers.
“Police have a crucial role in our community and the members of the Calgary Police Service do an outstanding job of keeping Calgarians safe. The working relationship between the Commission and members of the Service needs to be strong if we are going to maintain the high level of policing we have enjoyed in our community and improve it even further. We are absolutely going to address the concerns raised by officers during the recent thin blue line discussions,” said Chair Cornett.
The Calgary Police Commission is a body of 10 community members and two city councillors appointed by City Council to provide independent citizen governance and oversight of the Calgary Police Service on behalf of all Calgarians.
To protect the political neutrality of the police, Alberta’s Police Act requires that the police chief report directly to the Commission and that the Commission give direction to the Service through the chief, police policies, monitoring of the police conduct complaints process, and approval of how the police budget is spent.