S.F. Police Chief Bans Thin Blue Line Face Masks After Activist Outrage
San Francisco, CA – San Francisco police officers were at the center of controversy on Friday when they appeared at a May Day protest wearing Thin Blue Line flag facemasks.
The incident occurred in the afternoon on May 1 when police officers were sent to the Castro area to patrol a housing protest, the San Francisco Examiner reported.
Most of the officers on duty at the protest were wearing fabric face coverings that featured a Thin Blue Line flag.
The masks were distributed throughout the San Francisco Police Department by the police union to help protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus, the San Francisco Examiner reported.
In response to community criticism, San Francisco Police Commissioner John Hamasaki called the masks a “clear policy violation” in an angry email to San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott on May 1.
“This raises real concerns for me about the battle for the heart and soul of the department,” Hamasaki said. “Are we moving forward or being dragged into the pre-reform days of SFPD?”
He called for a police commission meeting to be held in May and said he was concerned the department needed oversight, KPIX reported.
“Without oversight, it appears that some in the department are openly flouting our policies, with the endorsement of the POA,” Hamasaki said. “Let’s not let the bad actors drag us back into the past.”
City Supervisor Shamann Walton told the San Francisco Examiner the Thin Blue Line masks were “something you see below the Mason Dixon Line.”
Activist groups complained the masks were a slap in the face to the black community.
Chief Scott said he would work to help the officers find a neutral alternative to the Thin Blue Line masks issued to the officers by their union, the San Francisco Examiner reported.
“As an affirmation of the principle of safety with respect for all, we will replace the personal protective equipment to which some community members have objected,” the chief said.
He also pointed out that the Thin Blue Line has historically represented a meaningful way to honor fallen officers, the San Francisco Examiner reported.
“We welcome the opportunity to have a productive conversation about ways to honor first responders and others during this public health emergency,” Chief Scott said.
But San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) President Tony Montoya told KPIX that the Thin Blue Line masks his union gave out were blessed by Chief Scott’s command staff before they were distributed.
Montoya said several of the high-ranking officials had asked if they could have more than one of the masks.
“With all the real danger and challenges we face today, these folks should stop grasping at straws, because they’re banned in San Francisco,” the union boss said. “Officers are wearing masks to keep the public safe as they continue to serve our city.”