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Criminal Justice

LAPD Chief Bans ‘Thin Blue Line’ Flag From Police Station Lobbies, Patrol Vehicles, And Uniforms

A demonstrator holds a "Thin Blue Line" flag - an American flag in black and white with a blue line running horizontally across the middle of the flag. To the right someone holds a sign that reads "thank you for your service police."
A demonstrator holds a Thin Blue Line flag at a June 2020 pro-police rally in St. Paul, Minnesota.
(Stephen Maturen
/
Getty Images)
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Update
  • LAPD Chief Michel Moore joined KPCC public affairs show AirTalk on Wednesday to elaborate on his decision in an interview with Larry Mantle. Read that story here.

Over the last few years, you might have noticed a growing concentration of “Thin Blue Line” flags in law enforcement spaces, on the back of patrol cars, or on police officers' uniforms.

Last week, LAPD Chief Michel Moore issued an internal memo that prohibits displaying the flag in station lobbies. A spokesperson for the department said the policy extends to LAPD officers’ uniforms and city-issued vehicles.

Some, including Moore, view the blue, white and black Thin Blue Line flag as an expression of support for police. Others see it as a symbol of white supremacy and far-right ideology.

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In his memo, the chief said “extremist groups have hijacked the use of the ‘Thin Blue Line Flag’ to symbolize their undemocratic, racist, and bigoted views.”

Moore — who is seeking reappointment to a second term — said he acted after a member of the public complained about a Thin Blue Line flag in the lobby at LAPD’s Rampart Station.

While saying he believes the flag “presents the honor, valor, dedication, and sacrifice of law enforcement to protect our communities,” Moore said its public display “can be divisive,” because “others have been able to persuade the public it symbolizes racist, bigoted and oppressive values.”

In an interview with KPCC's AirTalk Wednesday, Moore said, "when a person walks into the front lobby, or when a person sees an officer on the street, I don't want there to be any confusion about that officer’s commitment to protect and serve and the values of this organization."

Officers' Union Outraged At 'Politically Pandering Directive'

The board of directors of the Police Protective League, the union for rank-and-file LAPD officers, expressed outrage over the new policy.

"It is difficult to express the level of utter disgust and disappointment with Chief Moore’s politically pandering directive,” the board said in a statement.

A tweet from the union’s Twitter account last Wednesday said “[w]e will display it proudly and will not let anyone distort the true meaning.”

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Moore's Memo Response

In his memo to the department, Moore said, “ I understand the frustration some may feel on this issue with an accompanying sense of a lack of support of their dedication on my part.” He added: “My commitment to you is unwavering.”

The LAPD spokesperson said Moore was unavailable to discuss the topic Tuesday.

We were alerted to the new policy by police reform activist William Gude, who runs the Twitter account Film The Police LA, where he often films and posts LAPD traffic stops and arrests.

Gude said he was tipped off by an anonymous LAPD officer.

Black Lives Matters-LA and co-founder Melina Abdullah did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Moore’s policy change.

What questions do you have about criminal justice in Southern California? 
Emily Elena Dugdale covers smaller police departments around Southern California, school safety officers, jails and prisons, and juvenile justice issues. She also covers the LAPD and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department.