- A Facebook page purporting to be run by Australian police officers has leaked a Victoria Police internal email instructing members not to wear the Thin Blue Line symbol.
- The Thin Blue Line symbol is a pro-law enforcement symbol that has become linked to far-right extremists and anti-Black Lives Matter campaigners.
- Facebook users linked to the page and other law enforcement-related groups claim they will refuse the order, criticising management and the media, and called Black Lives Matter and Antifa extremist movements.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
Pages and groups on Facebook claiming to be run by active and former Australian police officers have rejected orders to remove a pro-police symbol associated with white supremacists and extremist movements from their uniform.
Over the past week, state police forces have sent internal emails and issued public statements instructing officers that they can only wear pre-approved variations from their uniform. These orders come following reports about serving Australian officers wearing Thin Blue Line (TBL) patches.
The Thin Blue Line is a pro-police symbol that’s “been hailed as a sign of police solidarity and criticised as a symbol of white supremacy.” Originally created in the US, the symbol usually consists of a black and white version of a national flag bisected by a blue line.
Proponents of the TBL say it represents solidarity and pride among people working a dangerous and demanding job.
Amidst increasing scrutiny of police brutality, critics say the symbolism fosters an in-group mentality among police which can create tensions between officers and the people they serve.
The symbol has been controversially used by white supremacists at the 2017 Charlottesville rally and in anti-Black Lives Matter protests.
In response to the orders to stop wearing the TBL symbol, the page and group’s users — many of whom list their occupation on Facebook as police or share names with police officers named in media reports — criticised the order, committed to wearing the symbol, and denounced media outlets and police management.
“Survive the Streets – Down Under” is a Facebook page with more than 51,000 followers. According to the page’s About section, it’s run by “serving officers from NSWPOL, TASPOL, VICPOL, QLDPOL and WAPOL.”
On September 10, the page posted that the Victoria Police force was banning TBL patches on uniforms.
The next day, the page posted part of an alleged leaked internal email sent to some staff with a message from Victorian Police Assistant Commissioner Tess Walsh.
“Despite what individual members may regard the meaning of the flag to be, the flag is aligned with white supremacists and extreme right wing movements, counter black lives matters movements [sic] and the condoning/cover up of police misconduct,” it read.
“Therefore: No member is permitted to display the badge in any form on police uniform, equipment, vehicles or police premises. The badge is counter to our / your organisational values.”
A spokesperson for Victoria Police did not answer questions about this email or whether an order had been given regarding the TBL symbol.
Instead, they provided a general statement claiming that only approved patches can be worn by officers while working.
“Items such as badges, pins or ribbons cannot be worn unless they have been approved by the Uniform, Appearance and Equipment Committee,” the spokesperson told Business Insider.
The spokesperson also said that police officers are required to abide by the Victorian Police Social Media and Online Engagement policy, even on their private social media.
“Victoria Police employees are expected to conduct themselves, both during and outside working hours, in a manner that protects their reputation and the reputation of the organisation,” they said.
Facebook users respond to orders banning police from wearing the Thin Blue Line symbol
Other users on the Facebook page and in a separate, private group that claims to only accept current or former service people, “Thin Blue Line Australia”, said they’d received the same email.
The response to the restrictions were near-universally negative. Barring a handful of exceptions, the page, and hundreds of users across the page and the group, pilloried the decision.
Someone behind the “Survive the Streets – Down Under” page rebuked the idea that the patch could be considered offensive.
“Senior management are a pack of kowtowing sycophants, grovelling at the feet of minorities trying to look woke…. What a pack of assholes,” they wrote.
Other accounts claimed they wouldn’t follow the instruction. One user posting a picture of their patch on their uniform wrote, “Good luck getting this off mine.” Another commented, “Time to buy a TBL Patch”.
In the private “Thin Blue Line Australia” group, many of the responses go even further.
On September 13, it was reported that Queensland police were investigating an officer for wearing a TBL patch at at Black Lives Matter protest.
Commenters called for the journalist to be sacked, said they were filing complaints to the Australian Press Council, and criticised the publications for being “alt left” or “communist”.
Group members were particularly inflamed by posts made by Sydney Criminal Lawyers and Greens MLC David Shoebridge about the investigation. Commenters encouraged each other to report the posts to Facebook as ‘fake news’.
Other group members drew an equivalence between TBL and Black Lives Matter.
One user, whose Facebook profile features them in a police uniform along with a number of others, even posted images of the Black Lives Matter Movement and Antifa with the caption “This is a flag of hate”.
Following this coverage, the group’s administrator posted about an influx of new members. He encouraged them to buy TBL merchandise he was selling through the group.
The top commenter, whose account included images of them wearing their police uniform, responded with his support for the TBL symbol.
“Still wearing my “White supremacy” TBL patch on my LBV [load bearing vest]. Wouldn’t mind a stubby cooler to go with it,” he said.
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