SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The “Thin Blue Line” is a symbol that means a lot to men and women in law enforcement, as well as their families.
For retired Sarasota Police Lieutenant Randy Boyd, its meaning is simple.
“It’s the line that separates good and evil. It is all of the folks that stand in between the evil to protect those folks that can’t protect themselves,” explained the retired lieutenant.
In recent years, the meaning of the symbol has shifted in the eyes of some of the public. Leadership at the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has acknowledged that.
In an email to staff last week, Captain Ryan Brown wrote, “The ‘Thin Blue Line’ has now been associated, by some, with a stigma of protecting each other from getting in trouble, creating an ‘us vs. them’ philosophy.”
Capt. Brown went on to remind deputies the logo is not allowed to be displayed while on duty.
“Make sure our personnel are not representing this on any agency-issued equipment, vehicles, uniforms, etc. It’s a good opportunity to complete inspections and ensure all our personnel are representing the agency as we should,” Capt. Brown wrote in the email.
That email has since become public and has drawn some criticism from those in the law enforcement community.
The President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3 sent 8 On Your Side this statement in response:
“The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office email concerning Thin Blue Line merchandise is a frequent topic with active and retired Law Enforcement Officers. Everyone I have spoken with agrees that the law enforcement profession requires impartiality and no appearances of bias. All agencies have written policies concerning appearance and comments while on duty. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s office has policies in place that do not allow anything (including Thin Blue Line) to be displayed unless it is authorized. Captain Brown’s email specifically mentioning The Thin Blue Line was unnecessary. He could have simply reminded employees about department policy and ensured that supervisors enforce it. I believe that his email was for publicity and political purposes.”
8 On Your Side spoke with Sheriff Tom Knight about the email. He explains the policy has been in place for as long as he has been sheriff.
“That is a policy that has been in place since 2009 since I became sheriff. It is called uniformity in law enforcement, very much like the military,” Sheriff Knight said. “We enforce that and we make sure people comply with it because there are 1000 people here that work as a team and I expect my supervisors to enforce it.”
Sheriff Knight explains that, to him, it is all about consistency and uniformity.
“We don’t put things on our cars or things on our uniforms that don’t represent the community as a whole. We are here to serve everybody in the community,” he said. ” The cruiser says ‘Sheriff’ – it doesn’t say anything else on it. We represent the entire community without any bias.”
Martin Hyde’s oldest son is a local deputy; he says he supports the “Thin Blue Line” and feels the captain’s email was unnecessary and the timing could not have been worse.
“Reminding someone at this time that people are against them…it’s not helpful and it is not leadership,” said Hyde.
A few days ago, Hyde posted on social media, writing that he is giving out free “Thin Blue Line” pins. He says he’s already given out more than 100.
“I have dozens and dozens of requests from people I don’t know. It is because they wanted to show solidarity with them too,” said Hyde.
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