Ottawa police chief bans officers from wearing ‘thin blue line’, other patches

Ottawa’s chief of police says he has implemented new uniform standards that would see any alterations, including the controversial “thin blue line” patch, banned from officers’ on-the-job attire.

Chief Peter Sloly said in his verbal update to the Ottawa Police Services Board on Monday evening that he has instituted a new policy, effective this week, that all OPS equipment and uniforms must be returned to the state they were first issued to them by the service’s quartermaster.

Modifications, additions and any other personalized elements to an officer’s uniform must be removed under the new policy.

“This includes any patches that are not officially approved and authorized by the service,” Sloly said.

Any requested alterations can be approved by the chief himself through a newly created position in the OPS, the ceremonial sergeant major.

The policy has a one-month moratorium attached to it to give members an opportunity to remove any modifications before the ban goes into effect.

Sloly announced details of the new requirements in response to an inquiry from the board’s vice-chair L.A. Smallwood, who asked for an update on the board’s position regarding the “thin blue line” patches.

The patches in question, which usually display a version of a Canadian or United States flag with a blue stripe across the middle, have been used as symbols of solidarity between police forces across North America but have garnered divisive reactions from members of the community.

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The “thin blue line” typically refers to the supposed role police play in maintaining order and keeping chaos at bay, but critics have said it fosters an “us-versus-them” mentality between officers and the communities they are meant to serve.

The RCMP asked its officers to refrain from wearing the patches through a directive in October 2020.

Numerous delegates speaking to the Ottawa Police Services Board in recent months have expressed hurt and frustration seeing members of the OPS wearing the thin blue line patch while on duty.

Sloly said the new uniform policy is intended to help rebuild public trust in the OPS.

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