NOVA SCOTIA: Anti-racism activists and observers are concerned and questioning why a member of the RCMP’s emergency response team (ERT) was wearing a banned “thin blue line” apparel patch during a recent police raid on a Black man’s Lunenburg County home.
Mounties were told last year the Canadian flag with a blue stripe through it is not to be worn or displayed while officers are on-duty. Historically, the symbol has been worn by police as a source of pride and unity among men and women in blue and their families. Over the past year or so, however, the image has been embraced by those who balk at policing reform campaigns and/or the views of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Whether viewed as the police line between good and evil, or us-versus-them, RCMP rank-and-file were issued a directive about the symbol in 2020. The ERT officer was captured on private security footage wearing the image May 19 as police executed a search warrant in Western Shore and arrested a Black suspect.
“What education is being provided to the people of the RCMP about the patch and the public recognition of what it conveys,” asked Carl James, an Ontario-based university professor who’s researched diversity and race-related issues.
James, who spoke to LighthouseNOW via phone, said the matter raises many questions, such as “what message and information is not being shared” to the rank-and-file that still allows for the symbol’s use.
Nova Scotia RCMP Public Information Officer Cpl. Lisa Croteau told The Reporter that Nova Scotia RCMP Sgt. Major Gordon continues to work with supervisors throughout the division to address this issue.
“The patch is not an approved part of or addition to the RCMP uniform,” Croteau said. “I can’t confirm which detachment may have members still wearing the patch but we are working with detachments throughout the division.”
El Jones, an anti-racism activist and assistant university professor in Halifax, called the matter troubling.
“They [police] will claim it’s just a gesture of our support for other police; they always say that it’s a solidarity gesture, but when you look at how it emerged and how it’s used, it’s very much in response particularly to society that Black people are questioning the role of police and, essentially, it’s a push back against that,” Jones told LighthouseNOW in a phone interview.
“If you can’t even obey that [directive] as a police officer, what else do you not obey? What else are you trying to get away with? It also sends that message.”
The 21-year-old local man, who was taken into custody and charged with possessing ammunition while prohibited and breaching his court-ordered conditions and supervised release, suggested the early morning raid was over-the-top and wants police to apologize. He told other media outlets he would have complied without the hubbub and accused the police of racism.
“I think it’s because of me, based on who I am, based on what skin colour I am,” he said in a May 21 news story published by CTV News.
Mounties disputed his claim of racial discrimination, saying the specialized tactical police unit assesses risk first and factors in safety issues and other possibilities before acting. Police were searching for a gun. No firearm was found but ammunition was seized.