Queensland police cracks down on 'unapproved' uniform patches linked to far-right groups

The state’s police force has advised officers not to display symbols, including the ‘thin blue line’, which aren’t part of standard uniform

The Queensland police service has cracked down on officers wearing “unapproved” patches, including the “thin blue line” and other pro-law enforcement symbols that have been co-opted by far right and extremist groups.

Guardian Australia understands some officers were advised last week not to display such patches or other symbols that are not an approved part of the police uniform.

The edict came after images were circulated of an officer at a Black Lives Matter protest wearing an American flag “thin blue line” patch this month.

It is understood there has been no change to formal police policy, but that rules regarding “morale” patches have previously not been strictly enforced by some local supervising officers.

“The Queensland Police Service (QPS) was made aware of an officer wearing a patch which is not part of the standard QPS uniform earlier this month,” a police spokeswoman said in a statement.

“In certain situations, officers can seek approval to wear a uniform which varies from the standard uniform policy.

“The QPS has made further enquiries with the officer involved and the matter is now finalised. The patch is not an approved part of uniform and has since been removed.”

A version of the “thin blue line” symbol featuring an Australian flag is commonly used by police officers as a Facebook profile picture. A private Facebook group with 15,000 members – restricted to law enforcement, military and emergency services personnel – sells the patches and other paraphernalia.

The “thin blue line” is historically a pro-police symbol. It is criticised as being “divisive” and “disrespectful” and has in recent years been connected to white supremacist movements.

Some police officers in Queensland and other states display the Australian flag version on their social media pages.

Posts from the private police Facebook page – Thin Blue Line Australia – mostly defend the use of the symbol as being “pro police” and not to signal support for far-right or extremist groups.

The Thin Blue Line Australia group also sells patches displaying the “Punisher” symbol, inspired by the Marvel comic book character. The symbol also has links to the far right.

Posts sent to Guardian Australia show Queensland police officers complaining about the banning of the “thin blue line” symbol. One central Queensland-based officer compared it to approved patches to show support for the LGBTI community.

Guardian Australia asked whether QPS had concerns about the proliferation of thin blue line and Punisher images among officers online, but did not receive a response to specific questions by deadline on Wednesday.


Ben Smee

The GuardianTramp

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