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Conn. town to review policy after vote not to fly thin blue line flag drew threats, ‘much hate’

The request to fly the flag was in honor of fallen Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, 34, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash on May 30

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

In a release on Thursday, Connecticut State Police Lt. Anthony Cristy said the state police K-9 unit anticipates an “imminent retirement for K9 Roso, who will remain with the Pelletier family.”

Connecticut State Trooper

By Kaitlin McCallum
Hartford Courant

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. — A Connecticut town will review its flag policy after a decision not to fly the Thin Blue Line police flag in honor of a fallen state police trooper drew national attention.

Wethersfield Mayor Ken Lesser made the announcement at a town council meeting during which dozens of residents assembled to criticize the council’s actions.

Lesser began the meeting offering condolences to the family of Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash on Interstate 84 on May 30, and to that of Minneapolis Police Officer Jamal Mitchell, of New Haven, who was shot and killed, also on May 30, while reportedly trying to help the gunman.

Lesser said he’d spent several days with the town’s Police Department in the previous weeks, listening and learning.

“Our Wethersfield town council and the entire community stands with our police. We have outstanding leadership in our department and outstanding officers,” Lesser said before calling for civility and opening the meeting to public comment.

The first speaker was Debbie Garten, mother of Detective Bobby Garten, a Hartford police officer who was killed Sept. 6, 2023 , when his cruiser was hit by a fleeing suspect. Garten addressed the flag controversy.

“Was this issue mishandled? Without a doubt? Does this council and the town of Wethersfield support the law enforcement community? Of course we all do,” she said.

Wethersfield council members had cited the town’s flag policy, that flags may be flown above the town with the approval of the council, provided the request is made 30 days in advance, in rejecting a request to fly the Thin Blue Line flag over the Town Hall for Pelletier’s death. But some also noted that the flag has been used by far right organizations to represent white supremacy and is often held in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I feel you all have missed the point of this flag request, which has caused a world of hurt to me, a lifelong resident of this town for 60 years, my family, residents of Wethersfield and the law enforcement community at large. The impact of this council’s actions is immeasurable,” she said.

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She explained the significance of the flag to her and, having recently watched her son’s name be unveiled on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. , of seeing the flag flown.

“Beyond honoring fallen officers, the blue line flag supports families. It shows that they are not alone in their grief and that there is a network of individuals who understand and empathize with our pain.

“The Thin Blue Line flag holds a deeply personal meaning for me as a tribute to my son’s service and sacrifice. It symbolizes his honor, his strength and his remembrance, for all he stood for, representing the bond between fallen officers, their families and the broader law enforcement community,” she said.

“While the flag cannot erase the pain or fill the void that has been left by Bobby’s absence, it is a powerful reminder that his sacrifice will never be forgotten. It represents society’s gratitude and respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line for the greater good,” she said.

Garten made her own request: that the town fly the Thin Blue Line flag over Town Hall for two weeks in May for National Police Week and for the Connecticut Police Memorial ceremony for a tribute to Bobby Garten, Pelletier and other officers killed in the line of duty.

The decision not to fly the flag at Wethersfield’s town hall has been met with national headlines, a firestorm of social media posts, and even a rebuke from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who posted “this is ridiculous” on the social media platform X.

Christopher Brecklin followed her, saying that many people have been hurt by the controversy but that no other town had flown the Thin Blue Line flag as a sign of support for law enforcement either.

Noting that the proposal was not put on a meeting agenda but was offered without warning, Brecklin called the proposal a “shameful political move” but had to pause as audience members shouted expletives and objections that drew loud applause.

Brecklin said that the deeply divided partisan rhetoric that has infected the country was visible in Wethersfield following media attention from what he called “instruments of spin and hateful networks” that he named.

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:

“What I find very disturbing about the last couple of weeks is the way that people have been treating their neighbors. Incomplete, inaccurate and false reported statements by the town council bred hundreds of messages and even death threats. This seems to be part of a national trend, one in which hundreds of public officials around the country have been facing increasing threats and harassment.

“I’m sorry that some of you have been dealing with so much hate. … We need to realize that the culture wars consuming national politics have no business in Wethersfield,” Brecklin said.

Elizabeth Keyes, vice chair of the Democratic Town Committee, said that in her nine years in local politics, she’s never seen such divisiveness.

“A lot of the rhetoric we’ve seen in state and local politics has made its way down to the local level,” she said. Thanking the council, whom she said volunteers their time to improve the town, Keyes said, “it breaks my heart that anyone would threaten violence against a member of the Wethersfield Town Council . … Threats of political violence should be condemned unequivocally by every person in this room.”

In contrast, John Porriello called the flag “a gesture of respect for police” and warned against the “cop hating agenda” of news outlets that proffer “biased and untruthful reporting.”

He continued, saying “given the displays of ignorance and hatred toward the police by the (council) majority,” the council would not have approved the flag request had 30 days notice been given.

A couple of speakers offered their support for the town council and its decision, saying that the Thin Blue Line flag has extremist ties, while one said he had left the Democratic party over the vote.

Kristen Moreno said she was a close relative of Pelletier and chided the council for not adequately honoring the fallen trooper “because his death didn’t occur with enough notice.”

“Even more disturbing were the misguided comments…claiming that raising the thin blue line flag is racist and would cause antagonism and hate. Well, look at the outcome. Not raising the flag caused the antagonism and hate while also making a mockery of the town we live in,” she said.

She called for the council to feel ashamed and embarrassed, saying they should only have been concerned about offending the trooper’s family.

Jeff Roets, whose wife, Jane, serves on the council and has received threatening messages and calls since the vote, shared quotes from posters he’s taped on his classroom wall at Wethersfield High School: “Language has power,” “resist binary thinking” and “check yourself.”

The last, he said, “demands that you ask honest questions and seek honest answer constantly. It asks you to seek nuance, to trust that human beings are complicated and contradictory. It asks you to play devil’s advocate with yourself, to consider what do I believe, what do I know, how can I verify what I know …”

The students get it, he said, and were more concerned with adult responses to the controversy than with the controversy itself.

“The kids are alright,” he said. “We need to do better.”

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