Trying to make heads or tails of pretty much any issue nowadays is virtually impossible. The internet has become more about the headlines and click-bait than about facts; and even when readers do take the time read a few paragraphs, the amount of unvetted opinion passed off as gospel is astounding. Hell, you can’t even go on WebMD without walking away thinking you have every form of cancer.
And so it goes with the debate over the ‘Thin Blue Line’.
The concept of the ‘The Thin Blue Line’ dates back as far as 1911, when it was used by the US Army, which wore blue uniforms until the end of the 19th Century. In fact, even earlier than that, the British Army used their own version in the Battle of Balaclava (1854 – Crimean War), calling themselves the ‘Thin RED Line’, naturally representing their uniforms.
The first real usage of the ‘Thin Blue Line’ as it applies to law enforcement didn’t show up until the 1950’s. Los Angeles Police Department Chief William H. Parker adopted the phrase to refer to his police department. Now, full disclosure, the LAPD of the 1950’s was full of corruption and police abuse of authority. Chief Parker launched an internal investigation that, in total, transferred fifty four officers and suspended thirty nine. Eight of the suspended officers were later charged with felony assault and five were convicted.
While no model is ever perfect, under Chief Parker’s leadership, the LAPD began to live up to what he had envisioned: a unit of policemen, with military bearing, protecting citizens from chaos and harm.
In 1962, the Massachusetts State government used the ‘Thin Blue Line’ when referring the Massachusetts State Police, inspired by their handling of anti-nuclear demonstrations in the state.
By the 1970’s, police departments all over the United States were adopting the moniker. In 1988, Errol Morris directed a documentary film called “The Thin Blue Line”. The film detailed the murder of Dallas Police Officer Robert W. Wood and the subsequent trial of his accused killer. Judge Don Metcalfe recalled the prosecutor’s words in his closing argument: “Doug Mulder’s final argument was one I’d never heard before; about the ‘thin blue line’ of police that separate the public from anarchy”.
Since that time, the color blue has been used, in some regard, to associate with law enforcement, both by sworn and civilian. Even the TV/Movie industry capitalized on the usage: “NYPD Blue”, “Hill Street Blues”, “Blue Bloods”, “Rookie Blue” and on and on. During the 2017 National Police Week in Washington, DC, President Trump illuminated the White House the color blue to honor the sacrifices of both the fallen and those who continue to serve.
For a police officer, the concept is simple: we very literally are that blue line that Prosecutor Mulder spoke about, keeping the predators from the prey. While a direct correlation can be drawn from the over-whelming amount of police uniforms that are some variation of the color blue, I assert that there is a deeper meaning. Law enforcement, today, is made up of every race, sex and religion. For the hours that are spent on the clock and at work, we don’t identify as anything other than the patch on our sleeve and the shield on our chest. We are not black, white, hispanic, asian, male, female, Christian, Muslim Jewish or any of that. We are BLUE.
Traditionally, the Blue Line Flag is represented by a blue line running horizontally across a black background. In 2014, Thin Blue Line USA, located in Michigan, redesigned the flag, creating a variation of the subdued 13-stripe American Flag, raising funds for the families of fallen officers.
The new generation of aggressive hatred for, resentment of and devaluing of the American police officer has attempted to insinuate that there is some malice, bias or racism behind this symbol. With absolutely no basis in fact, they have attacked it’s usage, even when it is being used to honor fallen police officers killed in the line of duty, as was the case with recent LODD, Davis Police Officer Natalie Corona, who’s personal photo shoot candids were attached to several news stories about her murder; and then subsequently demonized for the flags incorporation.
Recently, in the Connecticut State Capitol building, a hand-made wooden blue line American Flag hung in the building in honor of the Officer Down Memorial Tunnel. The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus members serving there bullied the Executive Director into removing it, referring to it as “controversial artwork” and citing it’s (alleged) biased origins.
The irony here is that, the same purveyors of hate and peddlers of false narratives that would argue against something like an American Flag being hung in honor of a police officer, all the while tongue-ion-cheek claiming to support law enforcement (sound familiar?), are the same ones who likely argued in favor of this remaining hung in the US Capitol back in 2017:
Funny, right? The American Flag = Controversy. Depicting the American police officer as murderous pigs = Expressive.
The only real argument that any opponent of the “The Thin Blue Line” flag has is to claim that it has been seen at random White-Supremacist rallies. Fair point. However, that has absolutely nothing to do with law enforcement nor how police officers use or feel about the flag. In order to make the argument that the flag is now suddenly somehow biased because it has been occasionally hijacked by a hate group, one would have to similarly concede then that Black Lives Matters is outright a hate group, based upon the actions of a few. Or have we forgotten?
Co-Founded in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, Black Lives Matters self proclaims to be guided by thirteen principles, including but not limited to diversity, globalism, empathy, restorative justice and intergenerationality. Despite their loose organization and lack of any definitive leadership structure, BLM feels that anyone acting in their name should hold true to these principles.
Help me out here. Which one of the thirteen principles apply here, because I’m confused.
Now, in a show of glaring hypocrisy, supporters of the Black Lives Matters movement will argue that you can’t demonize the whole based on the actions of a rogue few. Despite scenes like the above, not only has Black Lives Matters not been demonized, but one of their Co-Founders, Ms. Garza, was invited to attend President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address, in honor of her work and the work of Black Lives Matters.
So which is it? Are we treating each individual as an individual, giving them the respect that they deserve as a human until they warrant otherwise, or are we going to continue down the road of broad-stroke labeling people, in a show of the very same bias we should be standing against?
No matter how the symbol of the ‘Thin Blue Line’ is being tarnished and misrepresented, to the law enforcement community and those who support the American police officer, no matter where they are in the United States or around the world, it will remain as a symbol sacrifice, honor, strength and commitment. It should be flown with pride and continue to be used to honor those who have been killed in the line of duty and those who are still wearing a shield.
As the NYPD lives, so should we all: Fidelis ad Mortem.