Boise, ID – Interim Boise Police Chief Ron Winegar banned Boise police officers from displaying the Thin Blue Line flag in public just before he stepped down from his position at the end of June.
Then-Chief Winegar sent out an email on June 25 that said he had banned flags, stickers, face masks, or anything else with the Thin Blue Line symbol from being displayed in public places, KTVB reported.
The flag was permitted to be hung in Boise police headquarters because that is closed to the public.
“Blue line flags and masks and just about whatever variety you may have are still welcome inside City Hall West,” Chief Winegar said in the video, according to the Idaho Statesman. “I do ask that you refrain from wearing or displaying them out in public while on duty.”
The now-former police chief called the Thin Blue Line a divisive symbol for some and said it had to be removed, KTVB reported.
He said the request had come from a Boise Public Schools administrator who wanted the school resource officer to remove the Thin Blue Line flag from his office, KTVB reported.
The chief refused to identify which school had complained.
“As much as it breaks my heart to make this decision at this time, when it seems like our morale is being bombarded at every turn, I believe it is the best decision based on all of the circumstances,” he said in the video announcing the ban to the department. “The bottom line is the administrator of the high school has asked us to remove the flag. We are attempting to navigate through some very difficult times related to race relations in this country, as well as relations with our school partners here in Boise, and when that symbol creates a problem or a barrier for our partners externally, we need to be responsive to their requests.”
The Thin Blue Line flag ban was instituted the same day the department’s new policy that prohibited the previously-approved “sleeper hold” went into effect, according to KTVB.
There have been a number of anti-police protests in Boise in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police on May 25.
Defund the Police rallies have been met with hundreds of pro-police counter protesters flying Thin Blue Line flags in the city.
BLM was holding a “Defund the Police” rally in Boise today and were met with several hundred “Fund the Police” folks flying the blue line flag. Got to love Idaho. pic.twitter.com/9HkOHPgd4D
— 🇺🇸❌bpd5150❌🇺🇸 (@bpd5150) July 1, 2020
The new Boise police chief, Ryan Lee, was sworn in by Boise Mayor Lauren McLean on June 1.
Chief Lee has not rescinded the former police chief’s Thin Blue Line flag ban, KTVB reported.
The new chief, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, came to Boise from Portland, where he rose through the ranks to become a deputy chief of the Portland Police Bureau, according to a press release from the city.
The Police Tribune reached out to the Boise Police Department for information about how the new chief planned to handle the controversy going forward but had not received a response.