Note: we are republishing this story amid nationwide discussion regarding police accountability and the relationship between police officers and their communities.
In Portland, Oregon, criminal defense attorney Lindsey Burrows took to Twitter to complain about a Thin Blue Line flag sticker that was on the back window of a police SUV. The sticker was in the shape of Oregon state.
Burrows tweeted a picture of the sticker along with the caption: “This is unacceptable, @PortlandPolice @tedwheeler @ChiefDOutlaw. Is the person driving this car going to be conducting traffic/pedestrian stops?! Terrifying. Also didn’t the county just settle a $100k lawsuit over this bs? The city is next, I guess... Cc:@PCCEPportland.”
This image quickly sparked controversy across the country.
Many activists complained about the flag, providing a number of meanings behind the thin blue line flag. However, it was pointed out that the “thin blue line” term had been used by law enforcement officers since the 1950s.
"Thin Blue Line flags are just flags that express support for law enforcement. They have no direct connection to any Blue Lives Matter organization outside of their original meaning to show support for police,” Christopher Berg, Blue Lives Matter Editor-in-Chief, explained.
Referring to the thin blue line, the Oregonian reported, “It has been incorporated into the Blue Lives Matter initiative that followed the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Critics say the symbol and the initiative belittle the Black Lives Matter movement that focuses on police brutality against black people.”
Portland Police Bureau Lieutenant Tina Jones stated that while the department was aware of the tweet, they did not know who had placed the sticker on the car, and if the person was even an officer.
“Our vehicles are shared and at this time it is uncertain when it was placed on the vehicle and by whom," she told The Oregonian.
Lt. Jones did not reveal whether the department was looking into the matter.
She stated that it was a “minor policy violation” and that the punishment depended on whether it was an officer who put the sticker there and if the officer had any prior sanctions.
“It concerned me that Portland Police would display this symbol without (or despite?) recognizing that the symbol had been used in opposition to the #blacklivesmatter movement and by white supremacists,” Burrows told the Oregonian.