The thin blue line: a meaning deeper than four words

Meghan Fitzgerald

It recently came to my attention the Grand Valley State University student senate put on an event titled “A Thin Blue Line: Combating Police Brutality in Our Communities.” This past Monday, Oct. 24 the Lanthorn published a front-page article about the event, with the headline “Walking a Thin Blue Line.” These headlines certainly caught my eye, but not for a positive reason. While I did not have a problem for the content of the event, which was a forum with local police officers and professors from GVSU. I, and many other students, had a problem with the title that was chosen.

The Thin Blue Line is universally known in the police community as a symbol for police officers killed in the line of duty. After the death of an officer, departments and community members often wear blue ribbons, and the fallen officer’s car is adorned with a blue ribbon as well. The Thin Blue Line is also representative of active duty officers and the fact that they are the line of protection in their communities against evil.

There are also several organizations related to the TBL and support for fallen officers. The Thin Blue Line of Michigan was an organization founded to offer financial and emotional support to the families of fallen officers, along with other fallen emergency response personnel. There are many testimonies on their website from the spouses and children of the fallen.

The choice to use the Thin Blue Line as the title for an event regarding police brutality, in my opinion, was disrespectful to the officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I could not help but think of the five officers ambushed in Dallas and three officers ambushed in Baton Rouge this past July simply for being officers. I was reminded of the 107 officers and 29 K-9 dogs that have been killed this year alone.

While it is good to have a forum about police brutality and I truly hope that it does help bring our local communities and officers together, the Thin Blue Line should have been left out of it. I do have to thank student senate, however, because once I brought my concerns to their attention, they were quick to apologize. Hopefully, as more people are educated about the meaning of the Thin Blue Line, there will be a greater understanding and respect for it.