Governor ‘Offended and Disgusted’ by Ban of ‘Thin Blue Line’ Flag at Maryland Police Station

November 4, 2019 Updated: November 4, 2019

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan criticized the ban of a pro-police flag at a police station in his state, calling it “outrageous and unconscionable.”

“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, a Republican, said in a statement over the weekend.

“I have attended the funerals of fallen law enforcement officers across our state, and I take time to thank them every day for their dedicated service and sacrifice. We proudly hang this very same American flag in Government House in their honor. To outlaw these American flags from being hung in county buildings by law enforcement officers is outrageous and unconscionable.”

Hogan said he wanted Elrich “to immediately reverse this terrible decision and to apologize to the police and the citizens of Montgomery County.”

James Shelton, a resident of Germantown in Montgomery County, made multiple wooden “thin blue line” flags and delivered them on Oct. 28 to the Fifth District Police Station in Germantown and Fire Station 31 in North Potomac, reported WJLA.

Two days later, the Montgomery County Police Department posted a picture on social media showing Shelton, his son, and three police officers posing with one of the flags.

“Thank you to resident James Shelton, who presented Montgomery County 5th District officers with a wooden American Flag that he had made in recognition of National First Responders Day. The flag will be displayed in the 5th District Station,” the police department said.

Shelton, a woodworker who works for himself, told WJLA the flags were made with his son.

“I wanted my son to be involved so he could see how important it is to give back as well as to help build good character and make a wonderful memory we will always have,” Shelton said. “[My son] was so excited to help and even more so when be helped me deliver them.”

Elrich announced on Friday that he was overruling the police.

“The flag provides a symbol of support to some but it is a symbol of dismissiveness 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 in a statement.

“Under my administration, we are committed to improving police relations with the community and will immediately address any action that stands against our mission.”

Montgomery County Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones said in a letter to officers: “Because of the divisiveness this donation has caused within the community, a decision was made to not have the flag displayed in any public space within the department. As of now, the decision only pertains to the donated wooden flag.”

“This decision is not final as I requested that we take a pause due to those who distorted the purpose of the flag to be a Blue Lives Matter issue versus a Black Lives Matter issue. This is far from the purpose of why the flag was gifted and presented to the 5th District Station,” he said.

“I am fully aware of the true meaning of the Thin Blue Line and what it means to law enforcement. I have the highest regard for this department, its officers and professional staff. It is vital we maintain our strong professional reputation with the majority of the community that continues to support us. I ask that you be patient as we work out the issues surrounding this sensitive and politically charged issue,” he also wrote.

While the police station took down the flag, a “Thin Red Line” version continues to be displayed at Montgomery’s Fire Station 31.

In a statement, FOP Lodge 35 criticized Jones.

“We condemn this arbitrary, political action and are especially disappointed that Marcus Jones does not demonstrate appreciation and understanding of the concerns of working police officers,” it said.

“The working police officers of Montgomery County are highly offended by this act of outright disrespect for them and that flag which represents the sacrifices and dedication of police officers who daily risk their lives, health, limbs and own well-being in service to their community. Too many have made the supreme sacrifice and we will not allow political pandering by Jones and Elrich to diminish their service.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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