Maplewood council and police may not agree on Blue Lives Matter reference

The Maplewood Police Officers Association (MPOA) said on its Facebook page that its members are “deeply hurt and saddened” that Maplewood Mayor Barry Greenberg and the council may take a position that they don’t necessarily condone references to Blue Lives Matter on the group’s Facebook page.

The Blue Lives Matter flag, with the blue line, is at the top of its Facebook page. At least one resident in the (Zoom) Jan. 12 meeting, objected to the flag.

Greenberg said he found online that the Blue Lives Matter flag can be tied to a right-wing political agenda. “If we want to make a statement as a council that we don’t necessarily condone the use of references to Blue Lives Matter, I’m willing to do that,” he said.

See and hear radio station FM 97.1 report. Hosts on the station disagree with Greenberg’s position.

Council member Shawn Faulkingham detailed Sunday on Facebook how he has supported the Maplewood Police for his 16+ years on the council and continued, “Due to the insurrection to our great Democracy and the use of this symbol by right wing extremists, I thought it prudent as a Councilmember to review the use of this symbol by the MPOA as it was brought to my attention by several Maplewood constituents.”

He said he understands that “their use of the Blue Lives Matter symbol is true to the intent of representing their brother/sisterhood of Police.”

But he said he doesn’t understand “that they think questioning the use of the symbol which was used during the insurrection of our Nation’s Capital and our Democracy where LEO’s [law enforcement officers] died implies that we don’t support the Maplewood Police Department and it’s officers or dismissing it’s use or dismissing them as Police Officers. We do support and have supported them whole-heartedly! The history of that support is reflective of the great Police Department it has become.”

“Again, it is the Council’s duty to ask questions and review policies to ensure that our Departments are reflective of the City of Maplewood. Just because we question something does not imply non-support or dismissal; it implies that we do care and do support our Police Officers and all other Departments, as many of them will tell you.”

The Maplewood Police Officers Association’s statement:

We are deeply hurt and saddened by the recent statements made by our Mayor and city council members during the last city council meeting referencing our Thin Blue Line flag on our Association’s Facebook page. The implication that the men and women of our police department would openly display a symbol of hatred and racism is appalling. Although we feel your opinions about the thin blue line flag is fraught with misinformation, for us, it stands for sacrifice, brother and sisterhood, and our commitment to our community. And the flag upon which it sits merely represents our patriotism to our country.

To dismiss this symbol is to dismiss us. The same bicycle officer making friendships as she rides down the business district on Manchester. The same officer that applied a tourniquet to your child’s arm. The same officer that sits at your children’s school bus stop to make sure they get to school safely. The officer that comforted you in your time of need and told you, “this too will pass. “ And the 30+ officers who were your secret Santa.

We do more in this community than just enforce laws; we are your neighbors. All we ask for is your support.

34 thoughts on “Maplewood council and police may not agree on Blue Lives Matter reference

  1. MPD is an excellent and well-run police department. The “thin blue line” flag is a desecration of the American flag. Period.

  2. I agree with the Maplewood police department. The thin blue line flag indicates police support and respect for fallen officers. Racism and hate are not involved. Hate groups cannot highjack this symbol from the police. The thin blue line flag and “Blue Lives Matter” are not synonymous. There are no racist implications to this flag. It merely represents the thin blue line protecting all of us from danger and honors officers. If you believe otherwise you are misinformed.

  3. There is no such thing as a blue life. Blue Lives Matter was created in direct opposition to Black Lives Matter. Period. It’s literally in the name.

    Black people are asking for police reform. Instead of listening, the police create their own entity, mocking the BLM movement.

    And now they want that movement to be legitimately respected? No. Not today. Not ever.

    The symbolism has no place in Maplewood.

  4. Following up on concerns that were expressed at our last council meeting, I visited Facebook site of the Maplewood Police Officers’ Association. On the landing page there is an image of a “Thin Blue Line” flag prominently displayed at the top.

    The claim was made during the meeting that the presence of the flag constituted endorsement of the Blue Lives Matter group. It’s fairly clear that the Blue Lives Matter is a loosely knit group with an objectionable right wing agenda. I have done research online and I think that the following article captures the gist of the Blue Lives Matter group:

    https://theweek.com/articles/960175/what-blue-lives-matter-always-about

    The question is whether the image on the Maplewood POA Facebook site expresses an agreement with the philosophies espoused by Blue Lives Matter. The following articles address the history of the flag:

    https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/06/08/the-short-fraught-history-of-the-thin-blue-line-american-flag

    The following article weighs in with their opinion on the relationship of the flag and Blue Lives Matter:

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/10/28/fact-check-thin-blue-line-flag-prominent-trump-rallies/6058924002/

    I believe that the intended use of the flag on the website is consistent with the sentiment expressed in the following article:

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/08/18/thin-blue-line-what-does-american-flag-wit-flag-maker-condemns-use-white-supremacists-charlottesvill/580694001/

    It is clear that the Thin Blue Line flag has been co-opted by right wing operatives to falsely appear to support law and order and justify their cause, which is contrary to its intended purpose. I understand that the of the flag at right wing events creates an association with the Blue Lives Matter group in the same way that Black Lives Matter flags displayed during looting and rioting can create an association with violent, disruptive elements using the struggle for social justice and equity as a cover and springboard for anarchic activity.

    Police officers in this country engage in the most stressful profession as indicated by the fact that police experience the highest rate of suicide. The current political divisions in our country and violent players at each end of the spectrum have placed law enforcement in situations where they might feel that the only people that can understand and sympathize with the conditions and uncertainty resulting inherent in their service are other officers. In addition, good officers are thrown into the same category as the very small group of bad officers and have become unjustly accused of complicity in the systemic racism that is prevalent throughout our society.

    It is clear to me that a brotherhood has formed that is stronger than most every other profession for these reasons. In many cases police officers can only rely on each other to empathize and help them through their physical and psychological ordeals. Police officers are are only equaled by military and firefighters in that their ability to do their job and not get killed many times is dependent upon the actions of their peers. I feel that physical expressions of that fellowship are not only justified, but necessary. I also believe that any symbolism utilized by law enforcement, whether it is the Thin Blue Line flag or anything else, would also be insidiously utilized by right wing organizations to unfairly connote that theirs is a just cause and that law enforcement should be on their side.

    It comes down to two issues: education of the public regarding the symbolism, and perception of the public regarding political agendas. It has become increasingly difficult to promote objective discussion based on the polarization seen on social media and “news” outlets. Unfortunately it should not have to be the role of the Police Officers Association to defend their use of the Thin Blue Line flag in its positive intended manner. As an elected official, representing well meaning citizens of Maplewood, I understand their concern for the symbology that the flag has taken on in some circles. It is not my role to determine what is appropriate for this independent association to do, I can only present information for consideration and let the Maplewood Police Officers Association determine their own course of action.

    This is the email I sent to the producer of Marc Cox of FM Newstalk 97.1:

    I didn’t catch Marc Cox’s segment regarding our Maplewood City Council discussion of Blue Lives Matter. Since I took it at face value that the Maplewood POA Facebook page (I don’t do Facebook) potentially endorsed the Blue Lives Matter movement. While I find that particular groups right wing agenda objectionable, the conclusion that the presence of the Thin Blue Line flag on their homepage does not constitute sympathy with any political movement.

    While your online article was factual, your use of the image of the flag creates an association with the ‘Blue Lives Matter” headline immediately above it. That is the notion that I would like to dispel and I am willing to discuss the issue on the air. The intent is diametrically opposed to the perception due to the flag symbol being co-opted by right wing extremists. Our police officers do not engage in political activism, instead they support each other and other members of their profession who have committed their lives to a very stressful and essential profession whose goal is to serve and protect every member of our society, regardless of political affiliation.

  5. The Swastika has a 3000 year history with different meanings to different cultures. The moment that the Nazi Party started to use this symbol as it’s own will forever change the meaning of the symbol. Unfortunately the Thin Blue Line flag has been utilized by far right white supremist, forever changing the meaning of this symbol. Blue Lives Matter is no better than All Lives Matter. It is used by the same white supremist that want to marginalize Black Lives Matter. Thank you Shawn for bringing up the topic and bringing it to the forefront.

  6. They had the american flag at the “coup attempt” last week too, let’s ban that as well!

  7. He found it on the internet. Clearly it’s a fact. Everything on the internet it true.

    • I’m sure he could cite evidence of its presence at last week’s insurrection. There are other ways we can show our support. I’ve seen many signs referring to “heroes” of the front lines, etc….Or just signs saying we support law enforcement and their tireless sacrifices for our community.

  8. Just because you support the police (blue lives), doesn’t mean you agree with every action every police officer takes. Just because you support black and brown, doesn’t mean you agree with every action people of color take. It is ok to stand behind our Police Officers, Black and Brown friends, and Firemen and women. Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, Red Lives Matter. We can stand behind them all for all the good that all these people and groups do. We can also say there needs to be change in all the above groups as well.

  9. Always proud of our police department, I am disappointed that their association takes such an ardent , “them and us” stand against the council and citizens who explore the meaning and symbolism emerging in our society today. While police officers may believe the symbol represents them, it only communicates what others believe it does. Their mission is to work with their community, not “defend” themselves from them in their messaging. The professionals need to approach such an issue professionally. It begins with listening and finding a way to communicate effectively. P.S. Author of this article needs to be sensitive to the way this situation is presented in text and headlines as well.

    • Please refrain from characterizing a discussion and comments and disagreements as bullying. Not fair.

  10. Blue Lives Matter is just a way of saying Black and Brown people’s lives don’t matter. It’s a racist dog whistle.

  11. Thank you, Shawn Faulkingham, for bringing up and discussing your constituents’ concerns. That is exactly what you were elected to do. One thought I have is the question, “How and why did the slogan Blue Lives Matter begin? Anyone care to discuss this? Another thought I have is that the Maplewood Police Officers Association statement has no individual’s name attached to it. So, who wrote this, and who signed off on it? Do you really believe “To dismiss this symbol is to dismiss us”? If so, then are you, the Maplewood Police Association, choosing to be on an opposing side of the Council (our elected representatives)? And am I to believe (with my rose-colored glasses firmly in place) the only thing Maplewood police officers do is pat babies’ behinds when they’ve taken a tumble? Not true, I think. The Maplewood police used to be known as one of the worst in the St Louis area. Kudos to the fantastically great strides they have made to become what they are today. Still, I don’t believe they yet deserve sainthood. If words were not important, the Capitol insurrection would not have happened. I think it wise we keep discussing, and don’t come to blows. Thank you, Doug, for all you do, for all the good you bring us here in Maplewood.

  12. Usurping the Black Lives Matter name and replacing it with Blue has nothing to do with honoring fallen police and everything to do with undermining the Black Lives Matter movement. Blue Lives Matter is a racist phrase and a racist symbol. This has been true for far longer than the recent inserrection, but it’s good to know that white people’s eyes are finally being opened to this issue.

    I hope our council will stand strong against this racist symbol.

  13. I have been extremely proud to live in Maplewood. Proud of the beautiful and varied mix of city and it’s citizens. Proud of the police, the fire department, the parks, the hearts of its citizens with things such as Maplegood, Maplefood, etc. However it breaks my heart to witness the “Cancel Culture” rearing its head in the negativity towards the Blue lives Matter flag on their Facebook page. Where does it go from here…… We all have differing opinions, as we all have differing backgrounds, different homes, different lives. Please let us continue to embrace and enjoy our differences and not negate them because we disagree!

  14. The flag doesn’t stand for “blue lives matter.” That’s a piece of misinformation that the Mayor himself is perpetuating. Who’s blue, exactly? The Smurfs?

    It’s too bad Mayor Greenberg overly trusted his Google ranking, or he might have found information on the history of the “thin blue line” phrase, which can trace all the way back to the 1850s and the Crimean War’s “thin red line.” It’s been used by U.S. police officers since the 1920s.

    There were two notable deaths last year for which mourners would have erected the thin blue line flag: 1) St. Louis Police Officer Tamarris Bohannon, who was shot and killed by a gunman barricading himself in a resident’s home and 2) Former police chief David Dorn, who was shot and killed during protests in June. Both victims were Black men.

    The most commonly seen symbol at the Capitol that fateful day was the American flag. Will Mayor Greenberg not “necessarily condone” that symbol next?

    • Ann, I appreciate your work to uncover the history of the thin blue line flag. The information is valid (if factually correct, I am not verifying here) however your final opinion is too narrow. You present a linear history as evidence to vindicate the meaning of the symbol, but you have not accounted for modern day usage and interpretation. Think of it like a word- words have a specific origin but their usage and meanings evolve with the passing of time. The same can be said here- the meaning behind the Blue Lives Matter flag and the “thin blue line” symbol have been appropriated by far-right extremists that in no way should represent Maplewood or its Police. The Mayor and Shawn are doing what they SHOULD be doing, which is questioning the modern usage of the symbol. When evaluated holistically, it most certainly is not innocent.

      • Where is your proof that the symbol has been “appropriated by far-right extremists”? We should all be VERY wary of how often that phrase is used to discredit anyone with a differing stance today. Misinformation and bias is rampant in this controversy. Even Mayor Greenberg himself above is citing not independent, well-researched sources, but USA Today – not known for their solid, objective reporting – and the Marshall Project, which is slanted toward a decidedly social justice viewpoint. Maplewood – and its leadership – can and should do better. It’s frightening that an elected official can reach a point of condemnation based on a Google search, and a rather lazy one at that.

        • Ann, I have no idea who you are but, damn, I wish I did. Keep up the legitimate research, I love it.

  15. I need to start attending these council meetings. I’ve never been to the MPOA’s Facebook page, but it is disheartening to hear that only one person at the meeting objected to the Blue Lives Matter flag. I’ve never personally had any issue with the Maplewood police, but their support and staunch allegiance to a symbol of codified racism is disturbing. If they want to truly be a part of our community they need to acknowledge that displaying that symbol alienates a huge segment of our community as the ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag has very much become the ‘Anti-Black Lives Matter’ flag.

  16. This quote is about “All Lives Matter”, but it is also applicable to “Blue Lives Matter”. Both try to shift the focus from Black Lives Matter.

    For my all lives matter folks: When the Boston marathon was bombed, everyone’s profile picture went “Boston strong. Nobody said “all cities are strong”!

    When the Las Vegas shooting happened, people changed their profiles “stand with Vegas”. Nobody says “well what about the people that got shot in my city”!

    Have you ever seen someone counter a “breast cancer” post with “well what about colon cancer”?

    But for some reason if someone says “black lives matter”, it turns into all inclusive “all lives matter”. It’s not an either/or proclamation. When there is a crisis, we have always rallied around that particular group. It doesn’t discredit or diminish any other group; it just brings awareness and support to the group that needs attention.

    • You just made a really good argument for why the “thin blue line” flag is needed by law enforcement. It’s to honor specifically officers fallen in the line of duty.

  17. I’m sad to see that the MPOA believes that they, in a sense, are this symbol, and that dismissal of the symbol (the flag) dismisses them.
    They—as all of us—are FAR more than any symbol and are much more valuable.
    The writer of their opinion is selling them short, and that’s saddening.
    Lastly, when any symbol creates divisions, it’s rarely worth it and must go.
    The Maplewood police have my gratitude and support.

  18. To all of those who get offended by anything and everything, which seems to be a Lot of people (or at least the louder minority) …. grow up.
    These wonderful police officers put their lives on the line Everyday for us. 💙
    *** Blue Lives DO matter, of course. ***

  19. Maplewood police are the best. They are incredibly responsive and I know if I call, they are only a few minutes away. We are so very, very fortunate to have them protecting us.