San Francisco police chief bans cops from wearing ‘thin blue line’ masks
San Francisco police chief Bill Scott speaks during a news conference at the San Francisco Police Academy in this file photo.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The San Francisco police chief said officers would only be allowed to wear neutral face coverings while on duty after officers patrolling a May Day protest wore masks adorned with the “thin blue line” flag.
The masks, featuring a blue and black American flag with a blue strip through the middle, were ordered and distributed by the San Francisco Police Officers Association, a police union. The symbol was originally intended to support law enforcement but has become one of many symbols co-opted by white nationalists.
Chief Bill Scott told officers in a memo that while he personally thought the flag served as a “a meaningful expression to honor fallen officers," others find them “divisive and disrespectful," and so it shouldn’t be worn while on duty.
The flag is also associated with the Blue Lives Matter movement, which some critics see as an attempt to undermine Black Lives Matter and other civil rights groups.
John Crew, a retired civil rights attorney, told the San Francisco Chronicle the masks violated a long-standing policy that prohibits officers from expressing political opinions while in uniform since the masks also had a police union logo on them.
“The thin blue line is a political symbol,” Crew said. “And it’s a POA-branded mask. It’s like wearing a political button.”
Police union president Tony Montoya told the Chronicle it was clear that Chief Scott had given in to “the haters who have made a cottage industry out of carping, complaining and stereotyping the police."