State seeks to remove Thin Blue Line flag at LEO's highway memorial, citing safety concerns

If the flag flies into traffic and causes a crash, the state could be held responsible, said officials with Ohio's transportation department


By Olivia Mitchell
cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Transportation will ask a family to remove a controversial flag placed on a sign honoring a Cleveland police officer who died on Interstate 90.

The issue of the Thin-Blue Line flag comes months after the family of David Fahey removed a larger, wooden sign placed at a memorial post honoring Fahey, the Cleveland police officer who was struck and killed on the interstate in 2017.

A Thin Blue Line flag hangs below the ODOT sign honoring fallen Cleveland police officer David Fahey, who was killed in the line of duty along this stretch of I-90.
A Thin Blue Line flag hangs below the ODOT sign honoring fallen Cleveland police officer David Fahey, who was killed in the line of duty along this stretch of I-90. (Joshua Gunter)

A state spokesman said the agency was unaware that the sign had been replaced by the flag.

“We don’t approve of any permits to attach anything to our own property,” said an agency spokesman, Isaac Hunt.

The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com reached out to Fahey’s mother, Jacqueline Ketterer, for comment.

To some, the flag is a pro-police statement that grew out of the law-and-order administration of former President Donald Trump, where supporters pushed a message of Blue Lives Matter.

Many, however, have challenged the motives behind the symbol, claiming it has been linked to the racist attack at Charlottesville, Virginia, where protesters carried it along with the Confederate flag in 2017.

To the state, the issue is not a political one. It is a legal matter and a safety concern. If an unauthorized flag or sign flies onto the highway and causes an accident, the state could be held responsible for the damages

And that has prompted the concern on the flag on I-90.

The state installed a large brown sign honoring Fahey on the interstate, just below the Alger Road overpass in Lakewood, near where the officer was struck. The sign reads, “Officer David Fahey Memorial Highway.”

The controversial flag was recently placed on the sign and below it. The flag is a black-and-white version of the American flag with a bright blue stripe in the center.

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Brent Kovacs, spokesman for the state transportation department, said it is unknown who posted the flag, but the agency will reach out to Fahey’s family to discuss its removal.

The issue has become so controversial that some cities and police departments in Northeast Ohio have removed the flags and ordered them not to be flown.

In July, the state transportation department received a complaint about a wooden sign promoting the Thin Blue Line flag on the officer’s memorial post. The family removed the wooden sign in late summer.

Recently, the flag appeared on the memorial sign and below it. The ground around the sign has been carefully groomed, as the grass around it is neatly trimmed, with plants and stones placed around it.

Fahey, 39, was struck on I-90 in January 2017 while trying to direct traffic following an earlier accident. The driver who struck him, Israel Alvarez, fled the scene. He was later arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison. A judge ordered Alvarez never to drive again.

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit cleveland.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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