A former Kamloops Mountie is speaking up in defence of police wearing a controversial and politically charged symbol — one the RCMP told its officers to stop wearing a year ago.
A story on Castanet on Tuesday morning quoted a Kamloops defence lawyer who said he encountered a Mountie wearing a “thin blue line” patch last month while meeting with his Tiny House Warriors clients at an encampment in the Blue River area.
Joe Killoran, who represents a number of members of the First Nations protest group, described the symbol — a blue horizontal line across a Canadian flag — as “racist,” noting it was adopted last year by counter-protestors opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The symbol has been deemed problematic by the RCMP, as well. The national police force issued guidance to all Mounties a year ago directing them to avoid wearing it — a decision that came in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and increased scrutiny on the actions of police.
But Guy Pollock, a retired RCMP staff sergeant who spent part of his lengthy policing career working out of the Kamloops detachment, said most members of the public don’t understand the symbol’s true meaning.
Pollock contacted Castanet after reading Tuesday's story. He said the “thin blue line” is meant to represent the role police play in protecting society from the chaos of lawlessness — nothing racist or controversial about it.
“There’s still that fine line between chaos and civility,” he said.
The RCMP guidance issued last fall directing Mounties to avoid wearing the symbol is still in effect, but it is not being enforced.
The National Police Federation, the union representing RCMP officers, has said it supports its membership wearing the "thin blue line." The NPF said it did not want to provide comment for this story.
"This is not an issue that we will be commenting on publicly, except to say that each day and through all kinds of interactions with the public, our members embody the thin blue line between order and chaos," NPF spokesman Fabrice de Dongo said in an email to Castanet.
Despite the beliefs of some outsiders who see it as problematic or even racist, and the order from Ottawa to avoid it, Pollock said the “thin blue line” symbol is not controversial to the Mounties wearing it on their tactical vests — like the constable Killoran encountered in Blue River.
“It has nothing to do with being against Black Lives Matter,” Pollock said, taking exception to people who say they find the symbol troubling.
“You can’t keep bending to every whim every day. If you went by that kind of logic, [Mounties] would stop wearing a gun because that offends people, or they would stop wearing boots because that looks too militarized.”
Killoran said he complained to the Clearwater RCMP detachment commander, who said he would look into the matter.
According to Pollock, the symbol represents a “cultural pride” shared among police officers. He said the notion of finding a new, less charged symbol to replace it "doesn't make sense."
“It’s part of something we believe in,” he said.
“It’s something that we’re passionate about.”