Double standards: Why is only one of these emblems not OK?
Blue Hope, a not-for-profit organisation that supports police officers, posted an image of the WA Police emblem with the addition of a blue line — a symbol of remembrance — through the middle. It came with a message of support following the death of a WA Police officer, who was believed to have taken her own life last week.
The post attracted thousands of supportive comments including many that described the woman as “popular ... much-loved ... amazing”.
But WA Police quickly ordered the organisation to delete the image, claiming it was a violation of the law to alter the Coat of Arms.
WA Police argued that the altered emblem used by Blue Hope breached the Armorial Bearings Protection Act 1979 that prohibits the unauthorised use of the Royal, State or other Arms.
The Act was introduced almost 40 years ago and does not specify that police logos can’t be used in a sympathetic or humorous way.
But it does restrict people from using an image of the Coat of Arms without approval, although news.com.au understands no one has ever been prosecuted for doing so. The maximum penalty for breaching the Act is a $500 fine.
But many social media users pointed out that the WA Police has posted several altered images of the emblem, included Christmas and Remembrance Day versions, on its Facebook page over the past year.
“I’m confused. Which one is OK? The media unit ones, or the one they didn’t do???” one social media user wrote.
Another said: “Ah yes, the breach of the Armorial Bearings protection act 1979 is obviously more important than the tragic loss and grief felt by many. Political Correctness at its worst. No sympathy here, we have an Act to comply with. Disgusting.”
“The kangaroo and emu were chosen as the animals to represent our coats of arms nationally, because they are the only ones who cannot take a backward step, yet the people prove again, how backwards we really are,” another said.
A WA Police spokesperson told news.com.au it was “simply taking steps to protect its brand”.
“The death of a serving police officer is always sad for the police family,” the spokesperson said.
“WA Police supports the work of Blue Hope but, for good reason, always endeavours to protect the police badge from being modified or misused by others.
“We simply asked Blue Hope to not modify the badge and they acted immediately. It was not in any way a commentary on the officer’s death, as some implied it was.
“The Act prohibits the unauthorised use of the Royal or State Arms without written authority, in this case from the WA Police.
“The police badge has evolved over many years and on rare occasions the agency itself has elected to make changes or use it in different ways, as it is entitled to do.”
Earlier, a statement issued by WA Police to Blue Hope sought to “clarify its position on the use of the official logo”.
“We became aware of the recent Facebook post where the organisation had, with all good intentions, altered the WA Police logo to reinforce its message,” the statement read.
“This altered image was starting to appear on some of the WA Police sites, which drew our attention to the post.
“Even when WA Police exercises its own corporate discretion to alter our own logo, it cannot alter the Coat of Arms, which is the central element of our logo.
“In this case the Coat of Arms had been obscured, and once we became aware of the breach we were obliged to notify Blue Hope and request that the material be removed.
“The intent was to prevent that particular breach being replicated by the many who engaged in what was otherwise a thoughtful and supportive message.”
Blue Hope immediately removed the image in the spirit of co-operation, according to the organisation.
But the organisation “wants to know why it was acceptable (for WA Police to decorate its emblem) but why, in an effort to honour an officer, (Blue Hope’s) was not acceptable”.
“Sadly though, removing the image also means that our original post and your amazing messages of support for the member and her family will also be removed,” a Blue Hope spokesperson said.
“Interestingly, similar images are used all over the world as a means of respect following the death of a police member.”
The incident comes after news.com.au exposed a mental health crisis within the Australian Federal Police. Many officers have since come forward to highlight that the problem is also evident in state policing. On Sunday night, a South Australia police officer posted “F*** the police, f*** the army” on his Facebook page before going to a local hospital and taking his life.
If you or someone you know needs help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the 24-hour Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.