The Real Problem With The WPD Griffin Debate

On Monday, I attended the Waterloo City Council meeting and listened to the arguments for and against the resolution calling for the removal of the Waterloo Police Department’s insignia. Afterwards, I wrote a piece that I believe was objective. Today, I want to share one that is not.

To me, as a Black person, the meeting was another example of the issue underlying the griffin.

I heard numerous requests to “educate” the Black community because they obviously don’t understand the difference between a griffin and a dragon.

I heard numerous people dismiss the request to remove the griffin as unimportant, as a waste of time and money.

I heard racist undertones in statements referring to Black people being victims and the need to focus on “people” killing each other, instead of the griffin.

I heard all of the ex-police officers, family members of police officers, and others whose positive (or lack of negative) experiences with the patch or the police, speak passionately about their pride in that symbol and what it meant to them.

What I did not hear in (m)any of those passionate declarations to keep the griffin was even a hint of acknowledgment of how Black people felt.

What I did not hear in (m)any of those passionate declarations to keep the griffin was evidence that any attempt had been made to even TRY to understand why Black people are offended by the griffin.

What I did not hear in (m)any of those passionate declarations to keep the griffin gets to the root of the problem.

Black people don’t want—or need—to be lectured on the difference between two fictional characters. The difference is irrelevant. Instead, they want their feelings about this one fictional character to be heard.

Black people don’t want anyone telling them their concerns are unimportant. They want their concerns to be considered as important as those of others.

Black people understand the pride others feel in the griffin—they’ve been hearing it for 56 years. What they want is for those who are passionate about keeping the griffin to put aside that pride and hear how that revered symbol represents oppression to them.

It is true that there are bigger issues than the griffin to address—community activists have expressed some of those in the Opinion piece many have referenced.

But as many have also stated, the removal of the griffin is an actionable item which, when compared to the others, is easier to address. It provides an opportunity to display unity and take a first step to addressing the bigger issues.

In the Zoom chat on Monday, local resident Debra Carr summarized it nicely.

“Building trust and engaging relationships does not come without including ALL people, making compromises, and by incorporating what matters most to the people that have been harmed the most. No symbol should be edified beyond the dignity and worth of its people.”

I am not from Waterloo. I have neither positive or negative experiences with the Waterloo Police Department. But after attending the meeting and witnessing firsthand the divisiveness the griffin creates, I side even more strongly on the side of replacing it.


by Rachelle Chase
Posted 8/28/20

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7 Comments on "The Real Problem With The WPD Griffin Debate"

  • I have never been to Waterloo and had never seen you police cars until this story made the news. I had to look up the meaning of griffin after seeing the rather hideous painting the door of a police car. So it’s a combination of a lion and an eagle, eh? Two predators.

    That matches my vague impression of how Waterloo treats is minority citizens, but it is at odds with how police like to claim they just want to protect us all. I think the truth has been exposed in the vocal defense of an aggressive symbol by people at the meeting you covered.

    On the other hand, removing the symbol will be scant progress. Waterloo’s police are unlikely to change their ways when their cars look like cop cars everywhere else. We should aim higher than this!

  • I’m a thirty year Waterloo resident and feel this is much ado about nothing. Take a look at the police logs and which sections of town have the higher crime rates and connect the dots. Need more personal responsibility instead of deflection. Being fearful of a police logo is rather childish to say the very least.

  • Thanks Cassie, you’ve verified everything this article just said! Was it on purpose, or are you just blisteringly unselfaware?

  • William – A small, yet vocal segment of the Waterloo community has fallen under the spell of “police hysteria”. These type of hoaxes are common among the less educated and go hand in hand with the perennial the world is against me attitude. Very sad yet predictable.

  • Cassie–the Black community’s opposition of the griffin–for ALL the reasons noted in this article [that you somehow STILL ignored] is neither hysteria or a hoax. Your offhanded dismissal, categorizing folks’ LEGITIMATE concerns as either the result of being “less educated” or having a “world is against me attitude” is ‘common’ among the less empathetic, casual racists who can never seem to see beyond the limits of their personal comfort. Yes, it is VERY sad, yet predictable.

  • As a fifth generation WATERLOO resident and and AFRICAN-AMERICAN I don’t want anyone speaking for ME. I do my own RESEARCH and READING. The Griffin logo does not offend me personally. What offends me is people like Chaveevah and Cassie who try to STEREOTYPE my race into a MONOLITHIC group.

  • The whole discussion shows how people need to be educated in racism and what it is. But there will always be a push back from those that are racist.

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