Calgary Police Chief Mark Newfeld on Tuesday announced a two-week break in enforcing the Calgary Police Commission’s order to stop wearing ‘thin blue line’ patches on uniforms while on duty.
Newfeld said members were “outraged” by the order, which called for the patches to be removed by April 1 because they needed to be replaced with a symbol that “better reflects the values of Calgaryans.”
“Whenever you think something like this has been imposed on you, a defensive response is not a surprising response, especially around things that go to the level of your values and the center of your identity,” Newfeld told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
The commission had earlier said that the decision to ban the symbol was taken for a number of reasons, including the controversial history of “division, colonialism and racism”, while acknowledging that some officers wore the patch “to honor fallen”.
Officers and family members wear patches to “honor the fallen” and show support for those who serve, “however, the thin blue line also has a controversial history rooted in divisions, colonialism and racism, most recently in the counter-protest Black Lives Matter. Against the movement, “the commission said in announcing the order last week.
Newfield was away from town for business when the order was announced on March 30.
“So to a certain extent, I was assigned to monitor and manage the announcement of a very important issue at a distance,” he said, speaking to “all key stakeholders” over the weekend after returning to Calgary.
“It’s a very complex situation, like most things, it’s more complicated than it appears on the surface,” he said. “And I don’t have to tell anyone that things got complicated during the epidemic.”
At CPS, Neufeld acknowledged that morale was “at an all-time low” due to low stuffing levels and increased workload.
“It’s one thing to remove patches from a uniform, but it’s quite another to insult the symbol and to our people, what it means to communicate is different. I believe that what we have seen referred to as the ‘thin blue line’ is referred to as a familiar symbol of hatred, with a history of hateful hearts and hateful deeds. Those comments were inflammatory. ”
The commission issued a statement following Newfield’s availability on Tuesday.
“We know that Calgary police officers wear this symbol to express positive things, but we stand firm in our resolve to ensure that no Calgary faces a police officer who is associated with today and other highly divisive and racist movements. Displaying symbols. The past, “said Shaun Cornet, chairman of the commission.
“It has never been questioned whether police officers are wearing the symbol with good intentions, it was a decision because the meaning of the symbol is mixed and lands differently on a significant number of people in our city.”
Calgary Police Chief Mark Newfield, center, Deputy Chief Raj Gill, Left and Deputy Chief Chad Tawfiq speak to reporters.
Referring to the number of irregular hours and shifts worked by CPS officers and employees, Newfeld said the timeline for implementing the decision was “not realistic due to the size and nature of our service.”
The commission’s order did not take into account the reactions of associations representing officers and other employees, Newfield said.
“I’m sure you’ll agree that this has significantly complicated any plan for implementing this particular policy decision,” he said.
“In light of the response we have received from our union, I would like to call it extraordinary. Our union leaders and their executive boards are not anti-management and they are not disruptive. There is a tendency for this kind of action. In fact, I would say they are nothing more than that. “
John Orr, president of the Calgary Police Association, said earlier that a “significant” number of officers were currently wearing the patch and it was unclear how they would react if they continued.
“Police culture has long, long, long, thin blue lines,” Newfeld said.
“Not just here in Calgary, but worldwide,” he said.
“To members of the Calgary Police Service, the ‘thin blue line’ symbolizes respect for the fallen, service to our community, and mutual support.”
Since 1917, 12 Calgary police officers have been killed in the line of duty.
Newfield also mentions the death of Sergeant. Andrew Harnett on New Year’s Eve in 2021.
“So you understand how important it is to honor the fallen side of the ‘thin blue line’ symbol,” he said.
The issue also highlights the lack of trust between CPS members and the CPC, Newfeld said.
While talking to stakeholders, Newfeld showed him that “there is a strong desire to come to the table and come together to discuss the issues raised.”
“And if we can do that, I believe the patches will come out of the uniform voluntarily,” he said.
“What you are seeing is an existing conflict that has been unresolved and it has erupted.”
The direction has not changed, but the commission said it understands that it was difficult to stick to the timeline.
“This issue is important, but it is far from the only important policing issue in our city. We knew this decision would be difficult to implement and we are committed to doing so, but we support the Chief of Staff giving Calgary Police Service members time to work through it, “said Cornet.
“However, civic supervision of the police is a fundamental principle in modern democracies, and we must address the fact that senior officers and police associations are encouraging officers to disregard the legal guidelines of their supervisory body if this is to continue.”
Cornet also addressed tensions between the rank and file police officer and the commission overseeing the service.
“Police play an important role in our community and members of the Calgary Police Service do an outstanding job of keeping Calgaryns safe,” he said.
“The high level of policing that we have enjoyed in our community and if we want to make it better, we need to strengthen the working relationship between the commission and the service members. We are going to address the concerns raised by the officers during the most recent ‘thin blue line’ talks. “
The Calgary Police Commission consists of 10 members of the community and two city councilors who oversee the CPS.