MARYLAND– The chief judge of Maryland District courts has handed down a directive banning all court employees from wearing face masks that have the popular law enforcement symbol of the Thin Blue Line.
NBC4 report that Chief Judge John P. Morrissey sent an email ordering staff to cease wearing the masks.
His order Wednesday applies to bailiffs, commissioners, constables, clerks, staff and judges across the 34 District Court sites statewide, but does not apply to courthouse visitors. A spokeswoman for the judiciary said no similar mandate has been given to staff at the Circuit Courts, which handle felonies.
— WJZ | CBS Baltimore (@wjz) May 8, 2021
The Thin Blue Line symbol is used to show support for law enforcement officers. It is a reference to the blue uniforms that police officers typically wear.
Recently, with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining traction, a perception of racism has been linked to the popular police symbol. This is partly due to the fact that major media outlets have created a narrative that if you are pro-police, then you are racist against black people.
According to Morrissey, this directive came about because the court was made aware of “an issue of perceived bias”, and that staff had been wearing masks and other items of clothing with the Thin Blue Line.
Morrissey took action at the request of Maryland Public Defender Paul DeWolfe, who asked judges in a letter Tuesday to ban the symbols in courthouses, according to NBC4.
Maryland Judge Tells Employees Across the State: No More 'Thin Blue Line' Masks https://t.co/l3lsnAQqfE
— Erico Chilli (@EricoChili) May 10, 2021
Clyde Boatwright, president of the statewide Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement:
“We certainly understand what the judge is trying to accomplish here,”
He went on to say:
“But the concern we would have is, is this type of restriction for all advocacy groups?”
This is not the first time that the Thin Blue Line symbol has come under attack recently. Law Enforcement Today has reported on numerous instances where the pro-police symbol was removed, vandalized or banned.
In February, we brought you a story from Massachusetts where the Thin Blue Line flag mural that students painted outside of the school resource officers’ (SRO) office at Taunton High School was been replaced at the demand of protesters who deemed the mural racist.
Also in February, we brought you a story out of New Jersey were the Thin Blue Line symbols that were painted between the double-yellow lines on the roadways of many towns are now being called a “symbol of hate”. However, when the Black Lives Matter murals were painted on the roadways across the country, they were celebrated.
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Here is a story we brought you in March on Thin Blue Line flag controversy within a Fire Department.
SMITHTOWN, NY – The Smithtown Fire Department will be keeping the Thin Blue Line flag flying on its rescue truck after a decision to remove the flag came under fire from residents.
About a dozen Long Island residents swarmed a Smithtown street corner waving flags and chanting their support for police and firefighters following the announcement that the Thin Blue Line flag was back on the apparatus.
Smithtown Fire Department Returns 'Thin Blue Line' Flag To Truck https://t.co/Xj6jhW97iu
— Montgomery Granger (@mjgranger1) February 28, 2021
The fire department had removed the flag Wednesday following a complaint filed by a single community member. The department pulled the flag down earlier this week because of the complaint, according to Smithtown Fire Department Public Information Officer Rick Torre.
Smithtown Fire Chief Kevin Fitzpatrick said the decision to remove the flag was not an easy one:
“It was a tough decision to take it off actually, and our support of law enforcement does not waver, not even a little bit. We did receive a complaint from someone … we discussed it and we thought our best course of action would be to remove the flag.”
TAKEN DOWN: A community member complaint led to the removal of the Thin Blue Line flag from the Smithtown Fire Department and its vehicles.https://t.co/8EirGLlYa8
— News12LI (@News12LI) February 25, 2021
The fire department issued a statement regarding the removal of the flag:
“In response to this notification the issue was discussed, and it was determined that the best course of action for all parties involved was to have the flag replaced with an American Flag.
This was a difficult decision to make as our steadfast support of our law enforcement partners has not changed.
While we understand that this garners strong feelings on both sides of our community, we wish to focus on the life and property protection we provide to the residents of Smithtown.”
The department reversed its decision to remove the flag from one of its trucks after "overwhelming community outreach." https://t.co/TjE0B9EAwp
— Newsday (@Newsday) February 27, 2021
Community members expressed anger and disappointment that the flag was removed because of one person’s complaint. Many citizens expressed their displeasure through social media. One person tweeted the complainant should be banned from receiving police services:
”That community member should be blacklisted from ever receiving police service”
That community member should be black listed from ever receiving police service
— Conrad Oak 🇺🇲🚨🇺🇲 (@DCS104547) February 25, 2021
Another citizen tweeted that the issue was about free speech
“Since it is the police, who secure the scenes at all of the calls for violence in progress, fire departments should be able to show some support. This s*** is getting stupid. Pretty soon nobody will be entitled to an opinion or free speech.”
Since it is the police, who secure the scenes at all of the calls for violence in progress, fire department's should be able to show some support. This s*** is getting stupid. Pretty soon nobody will be entitled to an opinion or free speech.
— Dave C (@dave3825us) February 25, 2021
On Friday, the Board of Fire Commissioners and Smithtown Chiefs Office decided the flag shout be returned to the truck, citing “overwhelming community outreach.” The fire department issued a statement regarding the controversy:
“Newsday had contacted our organization regarding a complaint levied by a community member who felt the blue line flag on our apparatus was offensive. While the initial decision to remove this flag was a difficult one, it was done in the ‘interest of harmony’ in order to err on the side of caution.
“But in response to receiving hundreds of comments from concerned residents who were offended by its removal, we have determined the best course of action is to return the flag to our Rescue Truck.”
According to the department, the flag was originally placed on the rescue truck on December 20, 2014 to honor two NYPD officers killed in the line of duty. Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were assassinated while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn while on-duty.
The department statement said the flag also expressed their support for law enforcement:
“Today, we wish to note that our steadfast support of law enforcement has not changed and are proud we will continue to fly the blue line flag on our apparatus. The flag will be reinstalled on its fire apparatus [Friday] and will be flown with pride, with its original intention and meaning in mind, where it will remain.”
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