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New shoulder patches a symptom of militarization of police services

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Calgary’s police service is changing its shoulder patches. At the risk of seeming callous, our local police department has more glaring problems than a design flaw.

Where does one start? Street check-ups (known in Toronto as “carding”); the targeting of ethnic minorities and the mentally ill; the increasing use of SWAT teams for routine work and, as of a few years back, the militarization of Calgary’s fleet, putting aggressive black and white vehicles on the road. When some Calgarians complained about the colour change from the more passive blue with white and red stripes, they were mocked for being afraid of a colour.

Just to set the record straight, I was raised to see police officers as friends and protectors. My late father worked with them and they were his friends. They allowed a young girl in her Brownie uniform into the precinct and courthouse to flog Girl Guide cookies. I always sold out my stash.

Maybe the big thinkers on the force really believe making the shoulder patches taller with the word “POLICE” in big bold capital letters to replace the more benign Calgary Police Service will scare would-be miscreants. In a Facebook post introducing the new design: “These new shoulder flashes are similar in design to the majority of other police services … It is a benefit that police in Canadian cities have similar appearance and are easily identified.” (As if officers, both men and women, are not easily identified by the dark blue uniforms and the requisite “equipment” strapped onto their bodies.)

The design change is just one more attempt on the part of this “service” to militarize itself.

Not being a person of colour, not being Indigenous or homeless or scruffy, I’m not on the police radar. Indeed, as an adult, my contact with the police has been remote if not non-existent, with the exception of a few traffic tickets.

There are statistics and academic studies proving the militarization of police around the continent. Most of the studies have focused on the United States, with case after case of civilian law enforcement agencies receiving military equipment, from armoured vehicles to helicopters and Humvees. Even the language has been militarized. We are no longer the public we are “civilians.” That’s a military term, not one to be used by the police. Its use sets up a perfect us versus them scenario. As if we are the enemy to be confronted.

So it isn’t just shoulder patches of concern, but the growing use of SWAT or tactical teams for what should be ordinary police work. Calgary police would have you believe this is just business as usual. Except such business, for example, has stopped my friend on her way to church choir practice. Her “crime?” Walking while black. The only difference between us, other than her much younger age, multiple university degrees and the fact she’s about six inches taller, is her skin colour. Perhaps it was just an error on the part of police. But ask any person of colour, any vagrant, Aboriginal or anyone who isn’t white and middle class how often they’ve been arbitrarily stopped by a police officer in any Canadian city. The racism (of which we refuse to admit) is just as abhorrent in this country as it is to the south — with the possible exception of the number of young black men who’ve been killed by American police officers

Kevin Walby of the University of Winnipeg and Brendan Roziere from the University of Manitoba have compiled statistics from 10 large and medium-sized Canadian police forces. They write: “Militarization has been normalized within Canada’s largest police services. SWAT teams once considered a last-resort option for police forces are now being used in routine areas of policing.”

Walby and Roziere found an astonishing 2,100 per cent increase in SWAT teams deployment across Canada over 37 years, although Calgary police use has uniquely declined recently. If this was “limited to only those situations requiring their equipment and skills, such as hostage-taking and terror threats, there would perhaps be less cause for concern.”

“There is no meaningful oversight for normalization and expansion of police militarization … (it) does not merely affect interactions between the state and criminal offenders, it changes what policing is by changing what police officers do.”

So, it’s not just new shoulder patches being rolled out to Calgary police, it’s a distressing part of a more aggressive plan.

Catherine Ford is a regular columnist for the Calgary Herald.


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..article is just a pile of steaming mindless drivel by an obvious police hater.   


Looking forward to the new patch design !

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