What exactly does the thin blue line mean?

After recent police-involved shootings, which has led to many social justice movements, misinformation surrounding the thin blue line has been circulating.

Many people have attributed the thin blue line to be a symbol of injustice, hatred, and misconduct – and these attributions are false.

It is extremely important, especially in a time like today where the media can influence people, to ensure that facts are reported, and falsities are halted.

Some of the recent portrayals by social justice groups and the media have contained misinformation and outright lies regarding the thin blue line, a symbol attributed to law enforcement officers.

The misinformation that is often times spread regarding the thin blue line can lead to negative attitudes towards the symbol, and even towards law enforcement personnel and their supporters, who use and display the symbol quite regularly.

Often times, these negative attitudes can even get into the realm of assault and damage to property, merely because of the usage and display of the thin blue line.

There have been many recent times where supporters and officers have been denied service in businesses because of the thin blue line, and even police agencies outright banning the use of the symbol to protect their employees, or, to pander to the misinformed.

What does the thin blue line look like?

The thin blue line symbol is usually a black background, divided in half by a darker blue thin line that is smaller in width than the two black halves.

What does the symbol literally represent?

The two black halves within the symbol of the thin blue line stands for two separate things, when divided by the thin blue line:

  • Order | Chaos
  • Good | Bad
  • Innocents | Criminals
  • Sheep | Wolves

The thin blue line within the symbol, stands for the small amount of the population (much less than 1%) that are law enforcement personnel, who stand between the two very different halves.

The reason the color of the line is blue, is because of the iconic blue uniforms that law enforcement have worn throughout history.

Along with the above representation, the symbol is often times used as a display of remembrance for fallen law enforcement officers who died in the line-of-duty.

When did it originate?

There are many claims in ‘recent’ history of the origins of the thin blue line, as it relates to law enforcement.

What we do know is some of the earliest uses and mentions of the thin blue line, as it pertains to law enforcement, came from Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Parker in speeches in the 1950’s.

Bestselling Author and Ex-Los Angeles Police Officer Joseph Wambaugh also help popularize the term in his work in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Additionally, Film Director Errol Morris named the title of his documentary regarding a murdered police officer, The Thin Blue Line, in 1988.

What are the big misconceptions?

As of 2021, one of the biggest misconceptions is that the thin blue line is a recent creation.

There are many people, groups, and media sources who believe the thin blue line was created as part of the Blue Lives Matter movement, which was created as a countermovement to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Blue Lives Matter movement, which utilized the already widely-used symbolism of the thin blue line, was actually created in December of 2014, independent of the creation of the thin blue line. The Blue Lives Matter movement was created after two New York Police Department Officers were ambushed and murdered.

Another misconception is that the thin blue line represents the blue wall of silence, which is described by many media and counter groups to be cops covering for cops and not speaking up. While there are bad people who do heinous things in all professions, the thin blue line was not created, nor is it considered to be, a symbol of such misconduct.

Like any symbol, it can be adopted, misused, and displayed by hateful and spiteful groups, opposite of its original true meaning and representation.

Why does the symbol matter so much?

Many law enforcement officers see the symbolism of the thin blue line to reflect what they stand for, like a family crest or memento, similar to how many military members and veterans hold dear to them many symbols ranging from the American Flag, to the Gadsden Flag, to the Soldier’s Cross.

What are common uses of the thin blue line?

The thin blue line is used for a variety of purposes by law enforcement and their supporters. Most frequently it is used with flags. However, many other types of thin blue line use are seen, which include but aren’t limited to:

  • patrol car wraps
  • stickers
  • awards and plaques
  • logos, backgrounds, designs
  • murals
  • tattoos
  • casket decals

What about the thin blue line American flag?

Many have made the argument that adding the thin blue line to the American flag is defacing it.

While the interpretation of the U.S. Flag Code could be debated, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that a person’s First Amendment right to free expression cannot be violated. In Texas v. Johnson, it was ruled that the burning of the American flag was protected expression under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Given the above, we urge people to exercise their Constitutionally Protected rights in a lawful manner.

Summary

To wrap it up, the thin blue line has been around for well over half a century.

Like any symbol, memento, or crest – it can be mislabeled, misused, or repurposed beyond its original, current, and true meaning.

It is strongly encouraged to not fall to censorship, cancel culture, or pandering when it comes to the thin blue line. As we start losing our values and history to lies, we will slowly lose our other symbols, values – and freedom to express them.

Leaders, politicians, elected officials, law enforcement supporters, and law enforcement personnel must educate people, whether they like the truth or not. It is all we have to keep the morale going strong, so the thin blue line does not break, and order becomes chaos.