Maryland governor 'offended and disgusted' county banned police from displaying 'thin blue line' flag

Maryland governor 'offended and disgusted' county banned police from displaying 'thin blue line' flag
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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Sunday expressed "disgust" over a county official's decision to prohibit a police department from showcasing a wooden flag featuring a thin blue line, saying that outlawing "these American flags from being hung by law enforcement officers is outrageous and unconscionable."

The comments served as the latest episode in a controversy over what the "thin blue line" flag represents in American culture. The flag is viewed by some as a symbolic recognition for law enforcement. But it has also been viewed by others as a counter to the Black Lives Matter movement. The flag has been associated with Blue Lives Matter, a national organization formed in 2014 in response to Black Lives Matter.  

The Montgomery County Police Department shared a post on Twitter last week saying that they had received a wooden American flag featuring the "thin blue line" from residents in recognition of National First Responders Day. The department tweeted that the flag would be "displayed in the 5th District Station."

Just two days later, the department tweeted a statement from Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) detailing why the flag would not be put on display at the station.

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"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. 

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

Hogan lambasted the decision in a series of tweets early Sunday, saying that he was both "offended" and "disgusted" by the move. 

"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," he said, adding that he "proudly" hangs a flag featuring the thin blue line in his offices. 

"I strongly call on Mr. Elrich to immediately reverse this terrible decision and to apologize to the police and the citizens of Montgomery County," he added. 

The Montgomery County Executive's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

James Shelton, the resident who gifted the wooden American flag to the Montgomery Police Department, told ABC affiliate WJLA that he and his son built the product after a craftsman put out a call to deliver flags to local fire and police departments on National First Responders Day. 

"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 told the news outlet.

Shelton and his son also delivered a flag featuring a red line to a Montgomery county fire station, according to a photo posted on Facebook

Montgomery County acting police Chief Marcus Jones said in a letter to officers that the decision regarding the wooden "thin blue line" is not final, according to WJLA. 

"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 realize this decision has had a very emotional impact on the members of the department and has raised even more questions as the thin blue line symbol is incorporated into numerous aspects of our own department and American police culture in general."

The Montgomery police union said in a statement over the weekend that it was "highly offended" by Elrich's decision, calling it an "act of outright disrespect" of them and a flag that "represents the sacrifices and dedication of police officers."