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Sheriff responds to Wis. university police force’s ‘thin blue line’ ban

Sheriff Dale Schmidt criticized the decision, saying he believes banning the imagery sends the wrong message to citizens and law enforcement

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Photo/U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman Zoe T. Perkins

Should thin blue line imagery be banned from police departments? Police1 columnists debate the issue here.

By Suzie Ziegler

DODGE COUNTY, Wis. — A Wisconsin county sheriff is speaking out and condemning the decision of a local police force to ban displays of the “thin blue line” flag and other imagery.

Last week the University of Wisconsin-Madison police force released an email from Chief Kristen Roman saying that she had banned thin blue line imagery on duty, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. That decision came after university police faced backlash in November for a social media photo that displayed a thin blue line flag. In the email, Roman said the flag had been “co-opted” by extremists with “hateful ideologies.”

On Sunday, Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt posted a lengthy response on Facebook criticizing the decision. He did not mention UW-Madison Police by name, instead referring to Roman as one of “2 law enforcement executives in Wisconsin who have decided to ban the flag in their agencies.”

In the post, Schmidt argues that the ban sends the wrong message to law enforcement and citizens. He likened the situation to some extremist groups using the American flag at rallies.

“Should we abandon our American Flag because other ‘extremists’ are using it to promote their misguided ‘hateful ideologies’ as well? This is an absurd thought and it is infuriating,” Schmidt wrote.

Schmidt said he believes that banning the flag is an infringement on free speech.

“No one has the right to trample on anyone else’s right to free speech if they choose to display the ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag and support our brave men and women in law enforcement,” he wrote.

NEXT: State your case: Should the thin blue line flag be banned from police agencies?