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Calgary police remove thin blue line decal from front of district office

The Calgary Police Service says it has removed a thin blue line sticker placed on the public entry to the District Two office. 

CBC News was alerted to the sticker through an email Sunday and took photos of the decal the next day.

CPS says it was removed Wednesday after the force received a media request for comment. 

In a statement, CPS committed to a full review to determine when the symbol was stuck to the glass. 

“Due to the size and placement of the sticker, it went unnoticed until we were made aware of it [Wednesday],” the statement reads. 

The Calgary Police Service says that, due to the size and placement of the sticker, it went unnoticed until a media request from CBC News on Wednesday. The sticker was attached to the public entry of the District Two office in the top-right corner of the left door. (Jo Horwood/CBC)

The Calgary Police Commission initially directed the service to remove thin blue line patches from uniforms beginning March 31. 

It became a contentious issue, which led to a grace period for officers to continue wearing the patch without reprimand while its use was discussed. That grace period ran out at the end of May. 

“Early findings indicate it was placed on the door when the Calgary Police Commission had set-aside their previously established timeline following the announcement of the ban on it being displayed on uniforms,” wrote CPS. 

The commission called it “disappointing” to see thin blue line stickers showing up despite their direction to police and the concerns around the symbol. 

“However, we do not believe these incidents are reflective of the level of compliance across the organization and it appears that the vast majority of members are voluntarily complying with the direction,” reads the statement from the commission. 

Not the first time 

While the ban specifically covered uniforms, both CPS and the commission agree that the intent and purpose of that direction was to ensure the symbol is not used in public spaces. 

“We will be using this as an opportunity to remind members of the issue and their responsibility,” wrote CPS, who added that the topic had been raised with frontline commanders on a call Wednesday morning. 

In their statement, the commission notes that “sticking the symbol to buildings and vehicles is not permitted under the Service’s policies.”

In a photo shared with CBC News in June, a thin blue line decal is seen on the back of a marked Calgary Police Service cruiser. Chief Mark Neufeld has said there are no thin blue line insignias authorized for use on police vehicles. (Submitted to CBC News)

In June, when a thin blue line decal had to be removed from a marked cruiser, Calgary police said it would be ‘almost impossible’ to find out who had placed the symbol and when, ‘as dozens of members share those vehicles’. 

The entries to district offices are monitored by security cameras, and each district has an inspector. 

When asked if there was someone specifically responsible for what is displayed on or within the office, a spokesperson for CPS wrote that they “don’t think one person has that responsibility – more of a collective effort and district dependent.”

No final clarification was received on the matter by deadline. 

‘No balance’ when it comes to symbol 

The symbol is defended by its advocates as a token to honour fallen members and express support for those who serve. 

Doug King, a professor of justice studies at Mount Royal University, says there is no way to balance that modern interpretation with the symbol’s roots, and the thin blue line should not be tolerated for on-duty officers or on official buildings. 

“The thin blue line has its origins in extraordinarily racist actions by police officers in the United States in the 1960s,” explained King. 

“Some officers have adopted a racist symbol to represent something that it doesn’t historically represent.” 

But King notes there are still options for compromise. 

Alternatives to the thin blue line 

When CBC News looked to confirm whether other district offices were displaying a thin blue line decal, a different symbol was noticed. 

At the District 5 office, a piece of blue ribbon is wrapped around the door handle of their front entry. 

The commission said they ‘completely support’ this display, pointing out that District 5 is where Sgt. Andrew Harnett was working when he was killed in the line of duty. 

A small piece of blue ribbon is tied around District Five’s front door handle. Sgt. Andrew Harnett lost his life in the line of duty while based at the District Five office. (Jo Horwood/CBC)

There has also been an attempt by the commission to create a new symbol to honour fallen members. 

When officers were directed to stop wearing the thin blue line, the commission invited Calgary’s two police associations and Beyond the Blue, a non-profit that supports police families, to work with an independent creative agency hired by the commission to design a new symbol. 

“It could have put Calgary on the map and moved beyond the debate related to the symbol,” said King. 

“So Alberta and Calgary could actually be innovators here as opposed to hanging on to something that has roots in the 1960s.” 

In their statement to CBC News, the commission noted that while the offer remains open, “there has been no interest from members of the service in creating a new symbol.” 

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