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Police and Fire Chiefs Require Removal Of Thin Blue Line Flags

Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, July 24, 2020

Memorial Service for Sgt. Michael Chesna at Carlson Field on August 1, 2018 (l to r: Sen. Patrick O'Connor; School Committee member Carlos DaSilva; Rep. Jamie Murphy; Rep. Joan Meschino, Board of Selectmen members Karen Johnson, Mary Power and Paul Healey; Assistant Town Administrator Michelle Monsegur; Town Administrator Tom Mayo; Hingham Police Chief Glenn Olsson; John Cignetti; Matt Elio; and former Weymouth Police Chief  Richard Grimes) [Hingham Current file photo / Greg Lane]

On Wednesday, a college senior from Hingham wrote to the Board of Selectmen expressing concern over "Thin Blue Line" police flags flying on fire trucks in Hingham and asking that they look into it. In the email he described the flag as "politically charged" and said that it is "representative of the fight against Black Lives Matter." The student then went on to call for the immediate removal of the Thin Blue Line flag from the fire truck and all other town property.

Within an hour, Selectman Joe Fisher had forwarded the email to Fire Chief Steve Murphy who said he would look into it. He did so by including Town Administrator Tom Mayo and Police Chief Glenn Olsson in the conversation and adding that the flags had been purchased by fire department personnel in response to Sgt. Michael Chesna's death on July 15, 2018, the anniversary of which prompts many to fly the flag in Sgt. Chesna's honor.

That afternoon, after a brief exchange of emails, the chiefs of both the police and fire departments issued a statement drawing attention to the college student's complaint and noting that in the past few weeks the flags "have taken on a different political meaning, which might be offensive to some." Given that the Town of Hingham has a long-standing policy which prohibits political signage of any nature be erected on Town property, the Thin Blue Line flags were deemed to be in violation of this policy and were required to be removed.

Members of the Hingham Fire Department were not happy with this decision, and they voiced their concerns through a press release from their union. "At NO TIME was this meant to be a political statement in any way. Nor was it an attempt to show support for or against any specific political party or advocacy group," said the release. "The flags were put on the (fire truck) leading up to the anniversary of the senseless murder of officer Michael Chesna. We continued to fly the flags after the anniversary in support of the law enforcement officers in our own community who put their lives on the line every day."

The term "Thin Blue Line" was first used in reference to police officers in the early 1900's. It stems from "Thin Red Line" which was a term used during the Crimean War to describe Scottish Highlanders who wore red uniforms while holding off Russian soldiers. The Thin Blue Line flag was created in 2014 by a college student who insists that it’s a flag designed to "show support for law enforcement - no politics involved.”

According to the Town of HIngham website, the Board of Selectmen is composed of 3 members who are elected for 3 year terms. As the Chief Elected and Executive Officers of the Town, the Selectmen are vested with all the municipal authority not specifically retained by the Town's legislative body, Town Meeting, or other elected boards. The Selectmen appoint a Town Administrator who is responsible for the daily management of the Town. Board of Selectmen members are Mary Power, Chair, Joe Fisher Bill Ramsey and they can be contacted by emailing selectmenemail@hingham-ma.gov.

Kristen Arute can be reached at kristen@hinghamcurrent.com.