What role have police unions played in contributing to racial tensions?


TORONTO, June 11, 2020 – Protesters are calling for an end to anti-Black racism, police violence and the defunding of police forces, but there is one area that is getting little attention, according to two York University researchers.

The role of police unions.

headshot of Steven Tufts“Police unions in the United States and Canada have created a privileged status for their officers, a blue solidarity, which has led to a repression of any racial justice movements that challenge their authority,” says Associate Professor Steven Tufts of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS).

Has this led to stigmatization and discrimination against racialized workers and communities? Tufts and Associate Professor Mark Thomas of LA&PS believe it has. They also think it has contributed to tensions with other unions when they have spoken out about police violence against racialized communities or the handling of G20 protests in Toronto.

Headshot of Mark Thomas“This is more than just a conflict between various unions,” says Thomas. “It raises questions about the role of police unions in contributing to racial tensions, as well as in securing greater police enforcement powers, including discretion in the use of deadly force.”

Tufts and Thomas, who co-wrote the January 2020 article “Blue Solidarity: Police Unions, Race and Authoritarian Populism in North America,” can discuss the following:

  • Police unions and their contribution to quelling racial justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter
  • Stigmatization and discrimination of racialized workers and communities by police unions.
  • Blue Lives Matter campaigns.
  • Institutionalized racism.
  • The rise of right-wing authoritarian populism.


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Media Contact:

Sandra McLean, York University Media Relations, 416-272-6317, sandramc@yorku.ca