What is the meaning of the thin blue line flag?

What Does the Thin Blue Line Flag Mean?

Anyone on this site is probably already familiar with the Thin Blue Line flag and the fact that people use it to show solidarity with the policemen and women who serve and protect our country; depicted as a flag with black on two sides dissected by a thin blue line. (If you weren't aware of it, you should be after that description!)


We will dig deeper into it and learn about its meaning, symbology, where it came from, and where you can buy your own Thin Blue Line gear. 

If you are wanting to buy Thin Blue Line or Police Officer products scroll to the end of this article learn more about what we sell.


What does the Thin Blue Line mean?

The Thin Blue Line is a phrase that refers to the idea that the police officers that serve our country often form the line that keeps people from devolving our society to violence and chaos. Of course, the "blue" color in The Thin Blue Line is a reference to the blue uniform that many police officers wear. 


Some people also use it as a derogatory term, describing a supposed unwritten code that officers use to silence and cover up any police misconduct, which is also referred to as the blue wall of silence. 


Police tend to see it as something they can display as a show of respect for officers and a point of pride in their profession, which is dangerous and often results in injury or the loss of life. 


The La Mesa Police Department Lieutenant in La Mesa, California, has said that the flag is "a symbol of solidarity and professional pride within a dangerous, difficult profession and a solemn tribute to fallen police officers and their families." 




Where did the Thin Blue Line Flag Originate?

The Thin Blue Line term is a play on "the Thin Red Line," which was a particular formation used by the British 93rd Highland Regiment of Foot during the 1854 Battle of Balaclava. The Scottish soldiers stood their ground in a line against a cavalry charge led by the Russians. Of course, this show of fortitude was widely publicized, and everyone talked about it for a long time. Newspapers recreated the formation in illustrations. Because of the Thin Red Line, the Battle of Balaclava became the most famous battle in the Crimean War. Today, the Thin Red Line is used by firefighters. 


We know that one of the earliest known uses of the phrase "The Thin Blue Line" was in a poem by Nels Dickmann Anderson in 1911 of the same name. It was about the United States Army. That may sound weird, but during the 18th and early 19th centuries, the United States Army was issued blue uniforms instead of the modern ones that we typically think of. The poem also makes mention of the Thin Red Line. 


We don't really know when the term first started being used in reference to police officers. However, we do know that in 1922, the New York police commissioner, Richard Enright started using the phrase. 


Then, the Los Angeles Police Chief, Bill Parker, used the term a lot throughout the 1950s in speeches. He also named a television show produced by the police department The Thin Blue Line. He used the term as a way to illustrate to people the intended role of the Los Angeles Police Department. Parker said that the LAPD and the Thin Blue Line acted as a barrier between law and order and anarchy. 


The Oxford English Dictionary has recorded the Sunday Times to use the term in 1962 to refer to a strong police presence at a protest against using nuclear weapons. There has also been a documented case of the Massachusetts government using the phrase to refer to their police department in a pamphlet in 1965. By the '70s, the term became widespread across the nation. Joseph Wambaugh added to the phrase's popularity with his novels about police during the '70s and '80s. 


The term was also used in the trial for the murder of Robert W. Wood, a police officer in Dallas, Texas. Wood and his partner had stopped a driver because he had been driving with no headlights, and when he approached the vehicle, the driver shot him five times. Errol Morris made a documentary about the trial in 1988 called The Thin Blue Line. In the documentary, Judge Don Metcalfe was the one who presided over the trial of Randall Addams, the suspected murderer. Metcalfe said the prosecutor's final argument 


"was one I'd never heard before: about "the thin blue line of police that separate the public from anarchy." 


Police Flag Variations

As we mentioned earlier, the Thin Blue Line flag is typically depicted as having a black backdrop divided by a thin blue line. 


There are also several national flags that have been made in greyscale with the Thin Blue Line running through the center. These include Australia, Canada, Cuba, Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland, Israel, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States. 


Another popular flag variation is the one used by supporters of the Blue Lives Matter movement, depicting the skull from the Punisher movies and comics with the thin blue line. The Blue Lives Matter movement was started in 2014 in response to the homicides of two NYPD officers after the homicides of both Michael Brown Jr and Eric Garner that happened earlier that same year. 


Where can I buy a Thin Blue Line flag?

Now that you know more about the Thin Blue Line and what it means, here's where you can buy your own Thin Blue Line merchandise to show your support of the men and women in blue: 


Thin Blue Line Flag

This is a 3x5, one- sided flag. And at our low prices, it's a great way to show your support for police officers. You can buy it by clicking here:  https://policebrand.net/products/thin-blue-line-flag?_pos=1&_sid=ab7772108&_ss=r



Thin Blue Line Skull Flag

This 3x5 Thin Blue Line Skull flag looks great. The menacing skull is a great way to decorate and show your support of law enforcement officers. You can buy it by clicking here:  https://policebrand.net/products/thin-blue-line-skull-flag?_pos=2&_sid=afea04feb&_ss=r


We have over 14 different types of thin blue line police flags.  You can see all of them by clicking here:  https://policebrand.net/collections/police-flags

Still, want to learn more about police flags?

Then click below to read our other thin blue line related blogs:

Thin Blue Line Flags

Thin Blue Line Merchandise 

Thin Blue Line Gifts

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