by Nan Royce
HOWARD LAKE In retrospect, Karen Mumford laughingly wished she would have dropped off her gift to Howard Lake Police Department under the darkness of night. She really didn’t mean for it to be a big deal.
Instead, she walked into the Howard Lake Police Department the afternoon of Dec. 27, and handed Police Chief Dave Thompson a large wooden “Thin Blue Line” flag.
Thompson said he had no idea such a gift was coming.
The Thin Blue Line is interpreted slightly differently, depending on whom you ask.
To Thompson, and to many other law enforcement officers, it is a symbol of commitment.
“For me, personally, the thin blue line represents peace officers being the line of defense that helps protect citizens from crime and danger,” Thomspon stated. “I interpret the black field to represent death, our fallen comrades, and the inherent risk or danger involved in the law enforcement profession.”
Putting the black, white, and blue together packs a powerful punch.
“When the blue line is placed on the black and white flag background I think it symbolizes a sense of camaraderie that binds all officers nationwide,” Thompson stated, “While also symbolizing our great country, and the constitution, that peace officers make an oath to support and uphold when we are sworn in.”
Mumford said she discovered a former classmate of hers was creating the Thin Blue Line wooden flags.
Mumford said she was moved to acquire the flag for the HLPD, primarily to honor its officers, but also to honor her father, who was a law enforcement officer in Ottertail County for many years.
“I’m from a cop family,” Mumford said. “We just wanted to show our appreciation for these officers who put their lives on the line everyday.”
Mumford and husband, Glen, didn’t want to make a big deal out of the gift. But it is a big deal to the officers of the HLPD.
“I think the gift from the Mumfords is meaningful to the police department, because it is a nice reminder to us that the community supports the police department, and appreciates the job that we do.” Thomspon said. “It is also a good reminder that we exist to serve and protect the great residents of Howard Lake.”
Thompson said the wooden Thin Blue Line flag will probably be installed on the back wall of the main office, so people can see it when they visit the police department.
What is the meaning of the Thin Blue Line?
According to Timothy Roufa, major and chief technology officer of the largest statewide law enforcement agency in Florida, the concept of the Thin Blue Line first appeared in a 1966 documentary that explored the cultural brotherhood that often develops among law enforcement department members.
Roufa wrote for ‘The Balance’ website, “The simple-looking emblem has multiple meanings, all arising from the same concept: police officers stand as a thin line that protects society from good and evil, chaos and order. In some cases, it may be a tribute to an officer killed in the line of duty.”
“The blue is derived from the traditional color of police uniforms. Most municipal police still wear blue, and blue has long been associated with law enforcement throughout the history of modern policing. The black simply serves as a stark contrast for the blue. The color itself is neutral, and it emphasizes the blue line.”
The Thin Blue Line has not gone through decades of use without some negativity. Some believe the Thin Blue Line brotherhood went too far, and extended “professional courtesies” to other law enforcement officers, particularly for minor offenses.
That negativity appears to have become a thing of the past. Roufa wrote, “For some civilians, the Thin Blue Line emblem simply connotes a show of support for police, acknowledging the role they play in society. To others, it represents the solidarity and brotherhood that police officers share as fellow professionals.”
Roufa concluded, “Police, like any other profession, have an understanding among each other for what they do and what they go through on a daily basis. If anything, the Thin Blue Line demonstrates support for each another in a tough job.”