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Thin blue line no more; Montreal police update dress code, release new patch for fallen colleagues

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Montreal police (SPVM) officers will soon not be permitted to wear the controversial "thin blue line" badge as part of their uniform.

Those who want to honour colleagues that died in the line of service will now wear a new SPVM-specific badge with the phrase "Tombe(e)s mais jamais oublie(e)s" (Fallen but never forgotten).

"The thin blue line badge was a critical topic in discussions on the new dress and hold procedure," the SPVM said in a news release announcing the new dress code policy. "Through the many discussions Director [Fady] Dagher has had with his officers, it has become clear that it is essential for them to be able to wear a badge that allows them to honour the memory of their fallen brothers and sisters."

The new SPVM symbol was presented in a closed-doors meeting on Tuesday.

In 2022, Quebec Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault said she would review the legality of the "thin blue line" patch after Montreal police officers were spotted wearing them as part of their uniforms.

Quebec Solidaire MNA Andres Fontecilla wrote a letter to Guilbault at the time saying the patch was problematic, "since the symbolism evoked by it is rightly or wrongly associated with extreme right-wing movements in various countries, particularly since the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement."

On Tuesday, he said he supported the SPVM chief's decision.

"Yes, police officers have the right to remember their colleagues who died in the line of duty, but the 'thin blue line' has been taken over by the far right. This creates distrust among the population especially among communities that experience racial profiling. The idea of creating a Montreal police badge is the right solution," Fontecilla told CTV News.

Fontecilla feels that current Public Security Minister François Bonnardel should be more vocal on the issue.

"He should have sent a clear message to the leadership of all police forces that the wearing of thin blue line badges should be prohibitted by police forces," he said.

Police wearing the Thin Blue Line patch were spotted at a demonstration in Montreal on Feb. 12, 2022 (photo: Jenny Cartwright)

The "Thin Blue Line Canada" website says that the patches are to show support for law enforcement and "commemorate fallen law enforcement officers."

The SPVM last updated its dress code in 2005, and said in the release that "it was therefore essential to update it to reflect the new realities of today."

"The SPVM's management was keen to make its procedure more flexible and adapt it to 2024, at a time when it advocates openness and inclusion among its members," the release reads. "It was also important to remind police officers, through this modernized procedure, that their duty of impartiality in interventions should also be transposed to their dress and physical appearance, that they should not display bias for one cause more than another."

The new procedure will come into effect after summer. 

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