Montgomery County Executive Mark Elrich is standing by his decision to not allow a wooden “Thin Blue Line” flag to be publicly displayed at a Germantown, Maryland, police station.
This comes after Elrich, a Democrat, received criticism over the weekend, including from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican.
“I’m not changing my decision to have them take it down,” Elrich said Monday.
The flag was a gift from James Shelton, of Germantown, and his young son to the county’s fifth district station on National First Responders Day.
After hearing about Elrich’s decision, Hogan said the move both “offended and disgusted” him.
Elrich said he would not be reaching out to Hogan to discuss the matter. “No, I wouldn’t talk to him about this; it’s a waste of time. He shouldn’t be mucking in it,” Elrich said.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 also expressed “disappointment” in the decision. Elrich said he has spoken with the union about having discussions about the situation.
Elrich said he believes having the flag on display in public would hurt the work being done to strengthen trust between police and the community.
“We’re trying to undo a level of distrust with the police department, and if I were to say I am indifferent with the symbol being up there, people in the community might feel that’s not constructive,” Elrich said.
A photo on social media of the father and son posing with police officers and the wooden flag drew criticism from some because the flag has been used by Blue Lives Matter, which was formed in 2014 in response to Black Lives Matter.
Thank you to resident James Shelton, who presented Montgomery County 5th District officers with a wooden American Flag that he had made in recognition of National First Responders Day. The flag will be displayed in the 5th District Station. pic.twitter.com/kbAI32xHkY
— Montgomery County Department of Police (@mcpnews) October 30, 2019
The Black Lives Matter movement was created after officer-involved deaths of African Americans throughout the United States.
After learning of the photo, Elrich and acting Montgomery County police Chief Marcus Jones called for the flag to not be displayed in a public area.
If the flag were allowed to be displayed, Elrich said he feels someone would need to stand with it 24 hours a day to explain that the flag is not a Blue Lives Matter flag.
Thin Blue Line USA, which is behind the flag, said in a statement that it is not a political company, but a company that truly cares about first responders and “stands with them in support of what they do.”
“There are lots of groups in the community — people concerned about Black Lives Matter, people concerned about levels of violence against black people in this country who take the Blue Lives Matter flag as an affront and as a flag which represents dismissiveness over Black Lives Matter,” Elrich said.
Thin Blue Line USA said the flag was created before the Blue Lives Matter movement as a show of support for law enforcement.
Elrich did apologize to the Sheltons, saying he understood they had no ill intent in making and presenting the gift to the police station.
“If he had brought any other plaque there, any other symbol there, any other flag there, done anything to express what he was expressing, I would have had nothing but nice things to say about it,” Elrich said.
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