The University of Wisconsin Police Department released an update to their statement about “Thin Blue Line” imagery after a photo shared to the department’s social media in November caused concern from community members.
The update, released Jan. 26, informs the public of the department’s commitment to an ongoing discussion about the imagery. In the original statement, the UWPD promised updates on the department’s initiative.
According to the Flags of Valor website, the Thin Blue Line Flag is a field of black background separated by a thin blue line and is representative of all law enforcement officers.
Some say the flag symbolizes a racist agenda because it has also been associated with white supremacist groups, according to NPR.
In her original statement, UWPD Chief Kristen Roman said the flag has come to represent more extreme ideologies within the past year.
“We must consider the cost of clinging to a symbol that is undeniably and inextricably linked to actions and beliefs antithetical to UWPD’s values,” Roman said.
In the update, Roman said the department has furthered its initiative to denounce actions that occurred in the name of the thin blue line and will continue to “distance the UWPD from thin blue line imagery.”
“Visible public displays of thin blue line imagery while operating in an official capacity are disallowed,” Roman said. “This includes flags, pins, bracelets, notebooks, coffee mugs, decals, etc.”
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But, tattoos and event-specific displays may be exempt from this.
ASM Chair Matthew Mitnick said in an email to The Badger Herald said this action comes too late.
“Why did it take an insurrection at the Capitol for Chief Roman to make this decision when she knew very well the impact such imagery had on students and BIPOC lives months before?” Mitnick said.
While distancing from the thin blue line image is a step in the right direction, Mitnick said UWPD should listen to community calls to reform and move forward with an entrance to the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets program with the City of Madison. This contract would create crisis response teams for mental health service calls.
According to the UWPD’s website, they are implementing their Racial Equity Initiative, a comprehensive action plan for identifying, adopting and continually assessing needed changes within the department in the short and long-term.
“My intent is not that we reject outright the symbol for what we understand it to represent,” Roman said. “Instead, my intent is to be reasonably responsive to its detrimental impact on many in our community for whom the visible symbol holds a very different meaning.”
This article was updated at 12:36 p.m. to include comments from ASM Chair Matthew Mitnick.