Annapolis, MD – Maryland Governor Larry Hogan blasted Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich on Sunday morning for prohibiting county police from displaying a wooden Thin Blue Line flag gifted to them on National First Responders Day.
“I’m offended and disgusted that County Executive Marc Elrich has prohibited Montgomery County Police officers from displaying a ‘thin blue line’ American flag that was made for them by a father & his young son in honor of National First Responders Day,” Hogan tweeted on Nov. 3.
“I strongly call on Mr. Elrich to immediately reverse this terrible decision and to apologize to the police and the citizens of Montgomery County,” the governor wrote.
The U.S. Senate voted in June to dedicate Oct. 28 as “National First Responders Day” to honor career and volunteer firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics all over the United States.
Montgomery County resident James Shelton and his son, Forrest, lovingly handcrafted a wooden Thin Blue Line flag for the Montgomery County Police Department’s 5th District in Germantown and a Thin Red Line flag for the firefighters at Quince Orchard Fire Station 31.
“It was an idea started by a fellow maker in Chicago to have woodworkers in every state to make a flag for their local fire or police depart for national first responder day,” Shelton posted to Facebook on Oct. 28. “I decided to do one for Quince Orchard station 31 FD and Germantown 5D PD. It was truly and [sic] honor to make these and donate them.”
“Forrest helped the whole way and delivered them with me this weekend and I couldn’t have been more proud,” the father continued. ‘He was so excited to help build and even more excited to deliver them. It is a wonderful memory we will never forget. Thanks to all our first responders.”
Shelton posted pictures of him and his son posing with the officers and firefighters and their respective flags to Facebook.
The post, which has since been made private, showed them making the flags and the little boy wearing a Junior Montgomery County police badge and posing with a fire house challenge coin during their visits to deliver the flags to their local first responders.
The Montgomery County police who received the thoughtful gift from the Sheltons were thrilled and tweeted a thank you note with a picture of some officers posing with the flag and the father-and-son woodworking team who created it.
“Thank you to resident James Shelton, who presented Montgomery County 5th District officers with a wooden American Flag that he had made in recognition of National First Responders Day. The flag will be displayed in the 5th District Station,” the Montgomery County Department of Police posted to its official Twitter account on Wednesday.
The tweet set off a firestorm of anti-police rhetoric on social media, with critics claiming the Thin Blue Line flag was a symbol of white supremacy.
And then on Friday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced that the police department would not be permitted to display the gift.
The police department shared the news in a series of tweets that contained the edict from the county executive.
"Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones and I understand the concerns of the community,” the message began. "The flag provides a symbol of support to some but it is a symbol of dismissiveness to others. Because it is divisive, the flag will not be posted at the 5th District nor in any public space within the Police Department."
"Under my administration, we are committed to improving police relations with the community and will immediately address any action that stands against our mission,” Elrich finished.
But the Republican governor of Maryland is known to be a supporter of law enforcement, and he had an entirely different opinion on the matter.
In fact, Hogan bragged that he flies a Thin Blue Line flag at the Governor’s Mansion.
“We proudly hang this very same American flag in Government House in their honor. To outlaw these American flags from being hung in county buildings by law enforcement officers is outrageous and unconscionable,” the governor tweeted.
“I have attended the funerals of fallen law enforcement officers across our state, and I take time to thank them every day for their dedicated service and sacrifice,” Hogan wrote.
Elrich hadn’t responded to the governor at the time of publication, but the Montgomery County police officer’s union weighed in quickly.
“Thank you Governor Hogan. The 1500 working & retired Mont Co police officers appreciate your support and common sense. It is very depressing when our own police chief & county executive reject the art of a wonderful 10-year old boy and disrespect working County Police officers,” Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 tweeted.