Genesee County could fly ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag, but symbol has been banned elsewhere

Jessica Wong

GENESEE COUNTY, MI — The county Board of Commissioners is considering a resolution to declare May as Police Appreciation Month, and some members are defending a request to fly the “Thin Blue Line” flag at all county buildings despite the symbol having been banned elsewhere. Three of the nine commissioners […]

GENESEE COUNTY, MI — The county Board of Commissioners is considering a resolution to declare May as Police Appreciation Month, and some members are defending a request to fly the “Thin Blue Line” flag at all county buildings despite the symbol having been banned elsewhere.

Three of the nine commissioners promoted the actions at a news conference Monday, May 10, two days before a vote on the resolution is scheduled.

“Genesee County’s fallen officers will never be forgotten, nor will their services to their respective communities,” the resolution says in part. “By choosing to commit themselves to law enforcement, these brave individuals answered the call for service and willingly put their lives in jeopardy.”

The resolution comes two weeks after a divided commission approved a resolution 7-2 to fly the rainbow flag symbolizing LGBTQ pride at county buildings every June.

Commissioner Shaun Shumaker, R-Fenton Twp., proposed the law enforcement resolution and said the “Thin Blue Line” flag represents “the difference between (societal) organization when you have the police and chaos when that line is erased.”

“We’ve taken a lot of flack for doing so and a lot of people have worked in nefarious ways to make sure this did not happen,” Shumaker said.

Commissioner Domonique Clemons, D-Flint Twp., said he will ask that the resolution be sent to a committee before any yes or no vote on it, but said he’s taken no hard position against declaring a Police Appreciation Month.

“I think there’s a lot of factors that need to be considered,” Clemons said. “I really think it should have been considered in a committee meeting first.”

The “Thin Blue Line” flag resembles a U.S. flag but has a blue stripe. It is considered a sign of support for police but has also been criticized as a symbol of white supremacy.

In January, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s police chief banned officers from using “Thin Blue Line” imagery while on duty. Just three days ago, the chief judge of Maryland District Courts banned court employees from wearing face masks showing the law enforcement symbol, according to the Associated Press.

“Thin Blue Line” flags were also among those displayed by rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to overturn the election defeat of former President Donald Trump, the AP has reported. Five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer, died in the riot.

Commissioner Debra Newman, D-Swartz Creek, a retired deputy with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, said the flag is not meant to offend anyone.

“That’s not our intent,” said Newman, who appeared with Shumaker; Commissioner Meredith Davis, R-Flushing Twp.; and county Clerk-Register John Gleason at Monday’s press conference. “I understand (the symbol) has been hijacked by some organized, racist organizations, but that cannot give them the power to stop us from doing what is right and flying this flag. Period.”

Gleason called criticism of the resolution “way outside the mainstream,” and Davis said it’s simply designed to honor officers killed in the line of duty.

“This should be a slam dunk — an automatic,” Gleason said of the vote Wednesday, May 12. “(People are) trying to stop a flag from being flown for those who have given their all for our society.”

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