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Conn. town opted not to fly thin blue line flag to honor fallen state trooper

The proposal was voted down by the Wethersfield town council, which cited a rule that requests to fly the flag be submitted 30 days in advance

K-9 of CT State Trooper Pelletier to be retired, given to family

Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, 34, was a nine-year law enforcement veteran who was killed May 30 by a hit-and-run driver during a traffic stop on Interstate 84 East in Southington.

Connecticut State Police

By Ken Dixon
The Hour, Norwalk, Conn.

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. — A gesture intended to honor a Connecticut state trooper killed in the line of duty last week has turned into controversy, adding a new chapter to the debate over flags that’s popping up in communities across Connecticut.

The proposal to fly the “thin blue line” flag — a monochromatic version of the Stars and Stripes save one blue stripe that is seen by some as merely a symbol of support for the police, and by others as emblematic of Blue Lives Matter, a pro-police counter to the Black Lives Matter movement — outside of Wethersfield Town Hall for one day was made by Republican Rich Bailey Monday. But members of the Town Council, which has a Democratic majority, voted it down by a 5 to 3 vote, with one abstention.

While officers and law enforcement supporters have embraced the image as a source of pride, others see the blue line flag as a banner of defiance

Some Democrats on the council cited the flag as being divisive and racist, and others contended that Town Council rules require a 30-day notice in order for the proposal to be considered.

“My dad was a policeman, I always support the police,” Bailey said Friday.

Wethersfield is one of many towns in the state that have created flag policies in recent months, and many debates over such regulations have been heated. Enfield, for instance, has adopted a policy that LGBTQ+ advocates largely view as biased.

Darien may soon reconsider its policy to fly the Pride flag and other nongovernmental flags at Town Hall. Its three-flag policy (U.S., Connecticut and town flags) was adopted two years ago. New Canaan, too, has a similar ordinance in place, which like many was crafted in part on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a Boston case where the city rejected an application to fly a Christian flag.

And like many communities did as Pride month approached, Meriden officials briefly debated whether to allow the Pride flag to be flown outside town buildings. Meriden eventually approved use of the Pride flag and officially recognized June as Pride month.

The disagreement in Wethersfield shines a light on a flag policy that was implemented after the Democratic majority took control in the November municipal election, which requires a 30-day notice. The council also adopted a list of approved flags. Bailey said that having an approved list is in conflict with the policy and he voted against it.

What started as a phrase, became popularized as a graphic image, then unfurled as a thin blue line flag, has been around for a long time. Watch the video below to find out what the thin blue line flag really means:

Bailey said the previous Republican majority on the council implemented a flag policy last year that allowed for only the U.S., Connecticut, and MIA-POW flags to be flown “because it keeps us out of trouble.”

Democratic Mayor Ken Lesser said in a statement Friday that the town stands with the state in honoring Pelletier, but that the request to raise the flag conflicted with the town’s current policy.

“A motion was made by a Town Councilor at last Monday’s Town Council meeting to raise a new, previously unflown flag in Wethersfield, to further honor TCF Pelletier,” Lesser said. “As the proposed motion was not aligned with the flag policy adopted by the Wethersfield Town Council in February of 2024, the council voted not to approve the motion.”

Lesser added that the town mourns the loss of Pelletier and honors all first responders.

Reaction to the issue reached well beyond town lines Friday. After a meeting of the state Bond Commission on Friday morning in the Legislative Office Building, Republicans, led by Rep. Greg Howard of Stonington, a police officer, were highly critical of Wethersfield officials.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful,” Howard said. “I think that legislators around this state, no matter where they are from and no matter which party they are, have got to come out and let our law enforcement know they are supporting them. They have to. Public safety demands it. Look at the numbers. Look what’s going on. We cannot continue to trample on law enforcement in this state and say we support public safety. We don’t. And we’re not going to. It’s absolutely outrageous and completely unnecessary.”

Gov. Ned Lamont, speaking briefly after the Bond Commission hearing, said that it “sounds like a local Wethersfield situation.”

“I hope people are as upset about those who are flying the American flag upside down as they are with this particular Wethersfield incident,” Lamont said.

Bailey acknowledged that a compromise proposal to fly the first responder flag was made during the meeting, but he said that flag is not really for police and just made no sense to him, nor did raising the Pride flag in his honor.

“This guy got killed and we’re sitting here arguing about it,” he said.

Regarding the response to what happened at Monday’s Town Council meeting, Bailey said that he was surprised by the media attention and the backlash against those who voted against flying the flag, but added that regardless of the controversy, he would still have done what he did.

“This didn’t have to happen, none of this,” he said.

Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, 34, was a nine-year law enforcement veteran who was killed May 30 by a hit-and-run driver during a traffic stop on Interstate 84 East in Southington. Pelletier, who was stationed at Troop H in Hartford, had pulled a driver over for not wearing a seat belt, according to police.

According to police, he was talking to the driver when a pickup truck driven by Alex Oyola-Sanchez entered the right shoulder of the highway and struck Pelletier, his cruiser, and the stopped vehicle, then fled.

Oyola-Sanchez was arrested several towns away on I-84, state police said. The charges against him include second-degree manslaughter and operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He has pleaded not guilty.

Pelletier, who was married and the father of two sons, was buried Wednesday following a public funeral service at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford. The service was attended by state and local police from Connecticut and around New England.


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