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‘Thin Blue Line’ Flag at Montgomery Co. Police Station Creates Controversy

Montgomery County police officers pose with the “thin blue line” flag presented to them by a local artist, whose son also appears in the photo. Montgomery County Police Department Twitter photo

A handmade flag given by a Germantown woodworker to the Montgomery County Police Department on National First Responders Day is drawing mixed reactions from the community.

The flag, which is made out of wood with a thin blue line replacing a white one, was created by James Shelton from Germantown and gifted to the police department. Shelton also created a similar flag with a red stripe and gave it to fire station 31 in North Potomac.

Shelton and his young son made and delivered the flag in recognition of National First Responders Day on Oct. 28. The pair was one of 50 woodworkers across the country who worked to create flags that showed support for first responders in their communities.

Shelton’s son posed for a photo with officers and the station agreed to display the flag.

That variation of the flag has also become the symbol of Blue Lives Matter, which was founded in 2014. 

Some view Blue Lives Matter as a direct rebuttal to the Black Lives Matter movement, which began after the officer-involved deaths of African Americans around the country. Others see the group as a way of showing support for law enforcement during times of need.

Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) on Friday told the 5th District to remove the flag from display.

“The flag provides a symbol of support to some, but it is a symbol of submissiveness to others. Because it is divisive, the flag will not be posted at the 5th District nor in any public space within the Police Department,” Elrich said. “Under my administration, we are committed to improving police relations with the community and will immediately address any action that stands against our mission.”

Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones agreed with Elrich and the flag is no longer on display.

Online responses to the image shared by the Montgomery County police has ranged from support, to calls for it to be removed.

Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) waded into the controversy on Sunday, tweeting his displeasure that the flag had been removed.

“I’m offended and disgusted that County Executive Marc Elrich has prohibited Montgomery County Police officers from displaying a “thin blue line” American flag that was made for them by a father & his young son in honor of National First Responders Day,” Hogan said in the tweet.

He called on Elrich to reverse his decision and restore the flag to the precinct.

As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Zeke Hartner and Melissa Howell. Click here for the WTOP News website.


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‘Thin Blue Line’ Flag at Montgomery Co. Police Station Creates Controversy