Lee Williams, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Published 8:36 p.m. ET June 12, 2020
With calls for police reforms across the U.S., instructors, researchers and lawmakers say officers lack sufficient training on how and when to use force, leaving them unprepared to handle tense situations. (June 12)
SARASOTA, Fla. – Sarasota County Sheriff’s Capt. Ryan Brown told his 400 or so deputies in an email sent Thursday that they are now prohibited from wearing the “thin blue line” logo while on duty.
Brown said they are “in unique times right now” and that they should “always maintain their professionalism.” Law enforcement nationwide is under intense scrutiny because of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, an act that sparked protests across the country and around the world.
Many in law enforcement view themselves as members of the “thin blue line,” which they believe stands between civilized society and anarchy.
In an interview with the Herald-Tribune Friday, Brown said the issue is not about the logo. It’s about uniformity.
“We need to make sure our agency personnel — make sure their uniforms are consistent with what they are issued by our quartermaster,” he said. “The thought is, it’s not about the ‘thin blue line,’ it’s about making sure their uniforms are consistent and agency-issued.
“I can’t put a Florida Gator bumper sticker or a ‘thin blue line’ bumper sticker on my (patrol) car,” he said.
Brown would not say what the logo means to him, but added that “it means a lot to a lot of folks in law enforcement, but the message is to be consistent with the uniform and to wear what is issued.”
A cottage industry of sorts has developed, offering “thin blue line” flags, T-shirts, jewelry, coffee mugs and now even face masks — all geared toward law enforcement customers, many of whom wear the logo with pride.
In his email, Brown said the meaning of the logo has changed.
“‘The thin blue line’ has now been associated, by some, with a stigma of protecting each other from getting into trouble, from creating an us vs. them philosophy, etc.,” he wrote.
As a result, Brown doesn’t want to see the logo in the workplace.
“Make sure our personnel are not representing this on any agency-issued equipment, vehicle, uniforms, etc.,” he wrote. “It’s a good opportunity to complete inspections and ensure all our personnel are representing the agency as we should.”
Brown also cautioned his personnel about excessive force.
“Make sure we are backing each other up on calls, as well as deescalating calls if your partner is not,” Brown wrote. “If your zone partner is not using force that is reasonable and necessary, intervene. This is to protect everyone involved.”
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The order does not affect what deputies wear off duty, Brown said, adding that the genesis of his email came from a patch.
“It was brought to my attention that possibly somebody had a patch. That’s the bottom line,” Brown said. “They had a patch somewhere on their uniform. I know that symbol is under attack by some, but if it’s not agency issue, why are we wearing it? It’s a matter of sticking to policy.”
Follow Lee Williams on Twitter: @ht_gunwriter