Campus Reform | University PD responds to backlash over picture with Blue Lives Matter flag in background

University PD responds to backlash over picture with Blue Lives Matter flag in background

The University of Wisconsin Police Department made a statement against "hate" after online backlash over a photo that featured a "thin blue line" flag hanging in the background.

One complaint claimed the flag was "a sign of racism and conservatism."

After a picture posted by the University of Wisconsin’s Police Department received online backlash because of a thin blue line flag hanging in the background, the chief of police made a public statement denouncing “hate.”

The post in question shows a picture of officers with multiple stolen exit signs with the caption, “We broke up a theft ring this weekend that clearly had a faulty exit strategy.”

“This is what happens when you and your roommate attempt to ‘collect’ an exit sign from each residence hall over the last two nights. Please don’t steal exit signs. Or anything," the tweet states.

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“This is so toxic. UWPD is proudly displaying the racist blue lives matter flag and an officer is prominently showcasing a gun on his vest. Blue Lives matter is bullshit because an officer can always take their uniform off,” one Twitter user wrote in response to the UWPD's post.

Another reply stated, “this was a funny story until I saw the blue lives matter flag... It's pretty much an anti black lives matter flag. A sign of racism and conservatism. A fitting metaphor for a police department I suppose.”

“The fact that UWPD not only displays the thin blue line flag in their office but prominently includes it in the center of a photo-op really concerns me,” Associated Students of Madison Chair Matthew Mitnick told student paper The Badger Herald.

“UWPD knew very well the undertones this tweet would convey, and used it in a way to denounce student activism for Black lives.”

College Republicans Communications Director and student Keely Collins told Campus Reform that the group stands behind the campus police.

“The College Republicans at UW-Madison support the UWPD and value their presence on campus. Police officers put their lives on the line every day for all of us to live and work in safe communities and we are all so fortunate,” Collins said. 

“The flag with the blue stripe is an important symbol to the police force and has been a part of police imagery for decades,” Collins added. “It is important to note most groups have symbols/imagery, one example being the white fist for the BLM movement.” 

“The UW College Republicans join in condemning racism and prejudice in all its forms. The blue line does not have any racial connotation or prejudice behind it. It solely denotes the line between violent chaos and peace in society.  Therefore, the UWPD should absolutely be able to display this important symbol in their office without facing backlash from students and faculty.”

UWPD Chief Kristen Roman published a statement on the school's website regarding the flag in the picture, stating that it was a gift and that it exemplifies commitment to the public.

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“A photo shared to the department’s social media channels over the weekend has led some members of our community to express concerns regarding a ‘thin blue line’ installation that appears in the background. The installation that appears in the post is one of two installations displayed at UWPD, both of which were gifts from members of our community.

“The ‘thin blue line’ phrase and associated imagery date back decades. To many within and outside of the police profession, it symbolizes a commitment to public service and the countless selfless sacrifices willingly made to honor that commitment, up to and including laying down one’s own life to protect the lives of others.”

He went on to clarify that the department doesn’t support hate and wants to uphold police reform.

"First, we unequivocally condemn any usage or depiction of this imagery intended to defend hate or to attempt to invalidate social justice movements advocating for meaningful police reform. Second, the values of UWPD, in spirit and practice, continue to be rooted in notions of fairness, partnership, and service to our campus community.”

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The statement ends with a reminder that the department is working on its Racial Equity Initiative to help with racial equality.

“The department is in the midst of our Racial Equity Initiative, which aspires to establish formal, community-guided accountability metrics with respect to racial equity at UWPD. As part of this process, we have and will continue to address specific concerns that arise on a case-by-case basis to determine what policy revisions can and/or should be considered.”

Campus Reform previously reported on several instances of liberal bias and abuse at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including the student government voting to remove a Lincoln statue, and a professor stating that bringing college football back is racist.

Campus Reform reached out to the University and UWPD for comment and both responded with the published statement from Roman and didn’t comment further.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mn_turn