The Blue Line: Cowardice, Capitulation, & Politics

When leaders refuse to lead, it's the shrill few who drive the narrative

By Jim Glennon  |   Feb 13, 2019
Beautiful downtown Mt. Prospect, Ill. Photo Wikipedia

I admit I don’t know the complete history concerning the use of the “Blue Line” in law enforcement. I do know that I’ve been in this work for nearly 40 years, and my father and grandfather were cops. And in every way, the Blue Line has always been a symbol of honor, of sacrifice, of unity and, when necessary, of mourning and bereavement.

Former Police Commander Timothy Roufa penned an article last year titled, “What Is the Thin Blue Line?” In it he made this observation: “This simple-looking emblem has multiple meanings, all arising from the same concept: police officers stand as a thin line that protects society from evil and chaos.” 

Most citizens, I believe, see the Thin Blue Line as representative of police pride (if they see it at all). It has always, in my life, been used in a positive way. I have, and always will, proudly display the Blue Line flag on my vehicle. It flies in front of my house at times during the year. I have Blue Line paraphernalia on my desk, on the walls in my office, and on many of the garments I regularly wear.

Recently, the symbol has allegedly been hijacked. Social justice types now purport it to be a symbol of hate, racism, and prejudice. This portrayal has been championed by the media and even some elected officials, as we will see. I find this not only offensive, but ridiculous. 

Mount Prospect, Ill.

Mount Prospect is a suburb of Chicago. Every year the town issues vehicle stickers that must be purchased and displayed on vehicles housed in the village. It’s basically a form of tax collection. 

The sticker always has some special design. The 2019 design has caused a problem.

The sticker went on sale Feb. 1.  According to The Daily Herald News, the sticker’s design “was intended as a tribute to local law enforcement. It features a police badge. The badge includes police beat numbers, the state of Illinois with a star in Mount Prospect’s location, and an American flag with alternating black and white stripes and one blue stripe.”  (Emphasis mine.)

Seems simple right? 

Nope.

According to village officials, that “one blue stripe” needs to be taken off of the design. Because, they say, it was “co-opted by some white nationalist groups.” The village began recalling the stickers, noting in a press release “that some residents stated they would feel uncomfortable placing the sticker on their vehicle.”

The Herald said one of the residents objecting was Joseph Plata, a former participant in Mount Prospect’s Citizens Police Academy. Plata said, “This issue for me is not about not respecting police. The issue is nuance.”

It seems Mr. Plata and I disagree on the definition of nuance. According to Dictionary.com it means “a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.”

Subtle difference? Not here. 

Some obviously deranged racists use a blue line on some of their obscene paraphernalia and you equate that to a blue line used by the police for the better part of the last century? Because those despicable clowns throw up signs that happen to have a blue line, they now own it and police departments that display it are somehow endorsing racist views? Cops who wear it are racist?

Nuance. In other words, if any person feels an offense or discomfort, even if based on erroneous information, then a change must be made to accommodate that person. Doesn’t sound very nuanced to me.

What if the “white nationalists” used a donkey? Would that mandate a change by the Democratic Party? How about a red cross? Is the Blue Line flag on my front porch a symbol of racism?

Officials at Mount Prospect immediately capitulated, which besides being dangerous, simply doesn’t work. When faced with popular pushback over this weak-kneed capitulation, officials decided to have it both ways: Make two vehicle stickers for the village, the original and an alternative, allowing residents to choose. Because that will make everybody happy … Right?

When a person in a leadership position caves to loud, fringe views, that person sends a powerful message: Bullying is tolerated here, and it works. To the cops, it’s furthermore one of aspersion: Your symbol of professional pride is, or could be, a symbol of hate. In other words: You might be a racist. And even if you aren’t, I won’t expend the effort in defending you against the allegation because you’re not worth it. Now get back to work.

The citizens of Mount Prospect, meanwhile—the vast majority, I believe—probably think this is all rather silly. I presume they expect better of their government.

Here’s the thing: The Blue Line is not a symbol of hate. At all. When you suggest that it is, you hand the degenerates who coopted it a win. You lend credence to that theft and a lie. Why not instead speak up for what it really means, on the record? Imagine a politician saying the following,

“The ‘Blue Line’ has been part of the storied and proud culture in law enforcement for almost a century. It’s used in a variety of ways to show and display pride in police professionalism. We trust our civilian peace officers and honor their traditions. We as, elected officials, will not allow racist hate groups to take that symbol away from the officers we have decided to honor this year with this sticker.”

Imagine the respect that would get—on both sides of the argument. You stand for something. You won’t tolerate bullies. Right is right. Instead, the officials at Mount Prospect have told their citizens, essentially, “It might be racist, might not. Decide for yourself and let’s all pretend this never happened!”

But it did happen.

Conclusion

In the meantime, I display and wear this symbol daily. I am unafraid, just as are the 800,000 officers who show selflessness and bravery every single day. Maybe someday our politicians and bureaucrats will value courage the way the rest of us do.

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Jim Glennon
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.