The day after NB police killed Chantel Moore, VicPD posted a photo of a reserve constable with thin blue line and skull patches on their uniform hugging a cat. After being called out, they said it wasn’t “the right time.” FOI’d emails show many hadn’t seen the problem. (thread)
The records include an internal apology by the reserve constable. Both he and the officer he emailed said they didn’t know about any negative connotations with the thin blue line patch. The skull patch he was also wearing wasn’t mentioned specifically anywhere in their emails.
VicPD sent out a message to all officers to remove “Velcro patches not authorized by [VicPD].” The next day they were already working on approving a Canadian flag patch without a blue line.
Multiple officers said they didn’t know there were negative connotations to the ‘thin blue line,’ somehow missing years of affiliation with alt-right and anti-BLM groups. One person said VicPD should have “educate[d] the public about [its] true symbolism and meaning.”
There were a few responses saying ‘what’s this about’ and one lengthy complaint from ’educate’ guy saying “The message from the department to officers needs to be clear: we’ve got your back, no matter what,” which is a dangerous belief to hold for anyone affiliated with policing.
It’s not worth singling out one volunteer. One officer said “Most guys have some version of the Canadian flag or thin blue line,” and a quick search turns up photos of multiple officers wearing it.
The ‘us vs. them’ mentality embodied by the symbol; its widespread use in VicPD; officers’ ignorance of its racist connotations; and the ignorance of the role VicPD plays in upholding systemic racism are not individual problems.
There was one out of touch officer talking about “honest cops” and suggesting VicPD “stand unarmed and in uniform, shoulder to shoulder with the peaceful protestors” at the June 7th Peace Rally for Black Lives, as if VicPD wasn't part of the problem.
His superior didn’t take him up on it but said “I think we are all torn up about what is happening south of the border.” That’s a common line from VicPD and Chief Manak, that problems aren’t here, that policing in Canada, or by VicPD, is better than the United States.
There were other emails from management about how it’s “a difficult and trying time to be a police officer in the brunt of public scrutiny” and they’re looking to “mitigate public complaints.” But also advising officers to “trust in your training to use force whenever necessary.”
The skull wasn’t talked about. In June, @NimrodXIV identified it as being from “Imminent Threat Solutions” which wants people to “prevail against all threats.” The patch “provide[s]…visual recognition of medical supplies.” Do you need a skull for that? https://twitter.com/NimrodXIV/status/1269405734439174144
The company also sells bags with the logo pre-attached. Whether the constable bought it or was issued an already-branded item isn’t clear. He wasn’t the only one using it, though. This image is from the cover of the Victoria Police Union’s (aka “true blue victoria”) Facebook page
VicPD did say the “patches” plural weren’t authorized. I’d say that any reasonable person would associate the logo with death and harm rather than first aid, and the fact that VicPD thought it was appropriate is a problem.
The combo of skull and ‘thin blue line’ patches has similarities to this story out of Toronto, where an officer wore a skull + thin blue line patch, with a slogan implying that the people they police are sheep to be controlled by police: https://globalnews.ca/news/7322616/punisher-skull-patch-toronto-police-uniform/
Their comms staff said they wouldn’t have posted it if they’d seen the thin blue line patch, but that patch was common, as was the belief in a ‘thin blue line.’ These emails showing officers were out of touch with how their beliefs and symbols are perceived isn’t that surprising.
Saying it wasn’t “the right time” for cat photos; telling officers “to watch what they say”; writing it’s “a difficult and trying time to be a police officer in the brunt of public scrutiny”; suggests the ‘no unauthorized patches’ email was just to close ranks & prevent criticism
VicPD’s 2021 draft budget is out next week, and it will almost certainly include a budget increase. The police board, led by Helps and Desjardins, is as complicit and out of touch as the officers in these emails. Defund VicPD and their ‘thin blue line.’ https://twitter.com/step_harrison/status/1304956911184302080