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Thin blue line patches go against Vancouver police policy, review finds


An official review of the controversial thin blue line patches embraced by some in law enforcement has confirmed they are prohibited under Vancouver Police Department policy, but it's unclear whether officers will be reprimanded for wearing them anyway.

The review was prompted by a 2021 complaint lodged against an officer for wearing one such patch – featuring a black-and-white Canadian flag with a blue line through the middle – while policing an Indigenous land back rally in downtown Vancouver.

The complainant described the patch as a "white supremacist badge."

The subsequent review did not examine that officer's decision to display the symbol, instead focusing on the VPD's uniform policy. The findings, outlined in a report being presented at Thursday's Vancouver Police Board meeting, are clear: "The thin blue line patch is not an authorized uniform item."

"The use of any unauthorized patches by VPD members on their uniform is prohibited as per VPD policy," it reads.

Asked whether the department would reprimand officers for violating that policy, a spokesperson told CTV News the matter would be discussed at Thursday's meeting.

In an email, Const. Tania Visintin confirmed some officers continue to wear the symbol as a "gesture in honour of colleagues who have died in the line of duty."


Perceptions of the thin blue line were the focus of a briefing included with the report, which insisted that Canadian police "do not wear it with ill intent or in any opposition to any segment of the community."

But the briefing also acknowledged variations of the symbol have been displayed at explicitly racist rallies in the U.S. in recent years. Notable examples include the infamous 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and various counter-protests against the Black Lives Matter movement.

While the thin blue line metaphor for policing dates back decades, the briefing points out the version displayed over a black-and-white flag emerged in 2014 while U.S. police were under increased scrutiny following the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Concerns about public perceptions have prompted the RCMP and many other police forces to discourage or outright ban the use of thin blue line patches while on duty. According to the briefing, the "only Canadian police agency known to have specifically approved wearing of the thin blue line flag patch is the Metro Vancouver Transit Police."

"The transit police policy refers to the thin blue line flag as a variant of the 'national emblem,'" it notes.


The Vancouver Police Department also consulted with its Indigenous and Black advisory committees, and included their feedback on the patches in the review.

Some members of the Indigenous Advisory Committee expressed support for police having some kind of symbol to promote pride and honour fallen officers, but suggested creating something new that's free from controversy.

"Not a reflection of the VPD – others have ruined the thin blue line symbol," reads a summary of the feedback. "Now associated with other acts of racism."

Almost everyone on the committee saw the current symbol as "a dividing line."

Members of the African Descent Advisory Committee suggested that the symbol has become a proxy for how people view the police, and pointed to negative interactions racialized communities have historically had with law enforcement.

While acknowledging those community concerns, the briefing found negative perceptions are the result of the thin blue line symbol being "co-opted" by outside groups, drawing a comparison to the use of Canadian flags at so-called Freedom Convoy protests.

"Some community members associate the Canadian thin blue line flag with the U.S. version, and its use by counter movements in the U.S. in the same way that Canadians currently feel some uncertainty about the meaning of our national flag," it reads. "In this rapidly developing and passionate context, the proud and well-intentioned display of the thin blue line flag by Canadian police officers has generated concern."

The only action prompted by the review appears to be a "reminder" that was, according to the report, issued to members of the Vancouver Police Department on Jan. 6 detailing the existing uniform policy.

A department spokesperson did not respond to a request from CTV News for a copy of the reminder. Top Stories

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