Miosotis Familia was the kind of person most Americans celebrate. She was a strong woman, a loving mother, and eager to work in New York’s tougher neighborhoods as a respected member of its police department.
She wasn’t killed in the line of duty in one of the “usual” ways officers lose their lives. There was no bank robbery shootout; no drug deal gone bad. Instead, Officer Familia was assassinated this July for being part of a now-targeted class of people: cops.
As Familia’s body was removed from the hospital, her fellow officers stood in salute of their comrade. Just down the street, firefighters from the FDNY’s Engine 69 climbed atop their rig and unfurled a 3-by-5 symbol of their support. The pennant they bore was a black and white version of the American flag, with a solitary thin blue line replacing the eighth stripe, normally white.
This flag, as well as a basic version with a solitary blue line against a black background, has long been used as a symbol by police officers across the country to show solidarity in the difficult days following a line-of-duty death. Now, they are used more broadly by a growing public seeking to display their support for law enforcement, in a time when many groups on the left, and even celebrities and comedians, are filling the airwaves with anti-police rhetoric.
The thought of writing about the flag came to me as I biked through one of New Jersey’s quaint beach towns this July. I noticed house after house, from simple cottages to multimillion-dollar mansions, proudly displaying either version of the blue line. Not all of them could be cops.
Confirming its growing popularity, the president of Blue Lives Matter NYC, a charity which supports the families of fallen officers, reported that the $40 Blue Line American Flag is their highest grossing item nationwide, while the number of for-profit retailers selling blue line products on Amazon and Ebay corroborates the trend.
At the time, I made a remark to some law enforcement friends about a hunch I had that the more common the flag became in the community, the more it would become emblematic of the broader conservative movement. When that happened, I predicted, it wouldn’t be long before it was seen as some sort of offensive or hate symbol. Even before finishing this column, I was proven right.
While Familia's death is not directly related to those promoting the Blue Line flag as a hate symbol, it points to a troubling trend.
Earlier this year, a Florida homeowner’s association claimed a resident’s flag was offensive. According to the homeowner's father, the HOA "told her they had received a complaint that it was considered racist, offensive and anti-black lives matter.”
In another incident, an overly cautious California municipality forced a fire company to remove theirs.
The city’s police chief said in a statement that the public display of support could result in anti-police “extremists targeting the fire engine,” putting the firefighters in danger.
The idea that the Blue Line is somehow a new symbol of racism is preposterous. The meaning of the line is well known around the world, even if its origins are unclear. There was a classic “Britcom” in the mid-nineties aptly named “The Thin Blue Line,” where in its opening scene, the lead character (Rowan Atkinson) explains its meaning as being the line separating “order from chaos.” It’s worth a watch.
The reference to the show is significant for another reason. The fictional Gasforth police station much like its real American counterparts, is a place where diversity of race, gender, and religion are the norm. For almost a decade, minority groups have made a majority of the NYPD’s police officers. Other large city police departments like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington are as diverse, if not more. Of the three NYPD officers assassinated since 2014, none were white. The victims of last year’s Dallas and Baton Rouge police murders included black and Hispanic officers. The Blue Line flags flew proud and high for them.
Politicians and pundits shouldn’t give in to the fringe far-left, which condones violence and intimidation to push an agenda in which they serve as judge and jury. These are the same types that once chanted “What do we want? Dead cops!” and their attempt to label police support as offensive and racist should be met with equal disgust.
There’s been a Thin Blue Line sticker on my car for years, and like my support for law enforcement of which it symbolizes, it isn’t going anywhere.
Joseph Borelli is a New York City council member, professor, former state legislator, Republican commentator and Lindsay Fellow at the Institute for State and Local Governance at City University of New York. He has been published in the New York Daily News and appears on CNN, BBC, and Fox News. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeBorelliNYC.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this column incorrectly cited a tweet from a parody account. The column has been corrected.