San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott told his officers in an email on Friday that the “thin blue line” mask design will no longer be permitted.
An e-mail obtained by KTVU-TV expresses concern that the pattern — an American flag divided by a blue stripe in the center — would seem “divisive and disrespectful,” though Scott himself wrote that he saw it as “a meaningful expression to honor fallen officers.”
The controversy began on May 1 when officers wearing the aforementioned masks showed up to a housing rights protest taking place on a vacant property in the city’s Castro District. Armed and armored officers showed up to monitor the demonstration, prompting a complaint from retired civil rights lawyer John Crew.
“This is two issues combined,” Crew told the San Francisco Chronicle. First, that “the thin blue line is a political symbol.” And second, it carried the logo of the San Francisco Police Officers Association. “It’s a POA-branded mask. It’s like wearing a political button,” he said. “It makes you wonder if it was some sort of stunt and if they were trying to provoke a controversy.”
Crew pointed out that the masks violated a long-standing departmental policy against officers in uniform expressing any personal political opinions. But police union president Tony Montoya said the union had previously shown the masks to Scott’s command staff and several of them had asked for more than one. According to him, the symbol “represents law enforcement’s separation of order and chaos.”
Blue Lives Matter NYC founder, Joseph Imperatrice criticized the response on Monday. “I believe a leader in that sense shouldn’t be doing something like that,” he told Fox & Friends. “At a time when we can’t go to funerals for one another, it’s a sign to show that you’re thinking about the families. You’re thinking about the officer, and this isn’t the time for the executive to be stepping on their dreams and making a gesture such as that.”