Vancouver police officers are not allowed to accessorize or modify their uniforms, and that includes thin blue line patches, the department has decided.
It conducted an internal review of its policy last year after receiving a civilian complaint from someone who saw an officer wearing the controversial patch during a land back rally in 2021. The review did not investigate that officer’s conduct, but rather examined the Vancouver Police Department’s dress code and looked at the history and current perception of the thin blue line.
In the report, which is set to be reviewed by the Vancouver Police Board during their committee meeting Thursday, Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson said the only accessories officers are allowed are Pride pins during Pride Week and Peace Officers’ Memorial Ribbons in the event of an officer’s death. She said the department sent out a reminder to officers of this policy on Jan. 6.
The report makes it clear the department itself doesn’t take issue with the thin blue line, but that it recognizes the issues surrounding its use today.
“It is not a hate symbol and police officers do not wear it with ill intent or in opposition to any segment of the community,” the report claims.
Still, consultation with the Indigenous and African descent advisory committees included in the report, shows the thin blue line is clearly perceived differently by those with a history of being oppressed by police. Members of the committees told VPD the symbol was divisive, gave the perception of police “circling up” and is a reminder of how police have treated marginalized communities.
The thin blue line has become an especially controversial symbol in the last decade, as groups have used it as a counter response to the Black Lives Matter movement, claiming Blue Lives Matter instead. It has also become deeply tied to white supremacist and far right wing groups, and was regularly seen during “Freedom Convoy” protests during the pandemic.
Police officers’ use of it since then has largely been seen as them supporting such movements and views.
In its report, VPD claims the symbol has been co-opted. It points out that firefighters, the army, paramedics, emergency dispatchers, corrections officers and search and rescue members all have their own version of a patch with a thin line, each in a different colour.
In Canada though, most police departments have recognized for several years now that their officers should not be wearing the thin blue line on their uniform. The RCMP banned its use in October 2020, and most police departments have done the same. The VPD report points out that the only department known to have officially approved officers wearing the symbol is the Metro Vancouver Transit Police.
The report is set to be reviewed by the Vancouver Police Board during their committee meeting Thursday.