To the Honorable Chief Judge Michael Kramer and Sheriff Michael Downey:
As people who live and work in Kankakee County, we demand that the Thin Blue Line flag no longer be flown outside the Kankakee County Courthouse.
The Thin Blue Line flag expresses the belief that police alone protect peaceful society from evil, chaos, and criminals1. It implies that police must go to war against the very people they have sworn to protect and serve2. Law enforcement officers with this mentality are more likely to use aggressive and even lethal force, which they have historically wielded disproportionately against black and brown residents3,4. This message is the opposite of justice and does not belong at our courthouse.
Both the Thin Blue Line flag and the associated Blue Lives Matter movement are counter-reactions to people protesting police killings of black Americans5. Andrew Jacob, creator of Thin Blue Line USA, first began selling these flags in 2015 as a direct response to 2014 protests over police killing Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed black men, and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy with a toy pistol. Thin Blue Line USA also sells merchandise with the Punisher logo in its “Skull Collection,” which reinforces an even more violent disposition6 (The Punisher is an ultra-violent Marvel comic book character who routinely tortures and kills people he considers criminals).
As recently as June 2018 the Thin Blue Line flag was not flying at the Kankakee County Courthouse, indicating that it may have similarly been hoisted in reaction to recent protests against racist police violence. But even if this was not the intention behind flying the flag at our courthouse, its presence sends a divisive message to our community.
Many other counties and municipalities have removed Thin Blue Line flags and imagery from public property, including county courthouses. Their justification for doing so has included:
- Discoloring the flag appears to violate U.S. flag code that forbids flag modification2,7
- White supremacists have used the flag to signal racial animus, most notably at the infamous Charlottesville, VA “Unite the Right” rally8,9,10,11
- Community members perceive the flag as disrespectful and divisive, and feel less trusting of officers when it is flown12,13,14,15
In a time when many Americans are questioning the role of police in our society, this symbol further undermines public faith in our policing institutions. For Kankakee to develop economically and as a united community, you must order the Thin Blue Line flag to be taken down.