San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott has banned his rank-and-file officers from wearing "thin blue line" face masks that show support for law enforcement.
Bay Area officers who were working to enforce stay-at-home and other lockdown orders last week wore face masks designed to look like the "thin blue line" flag, KTVU-TV reported. The symbol is associated with Blue Lives Matter, a movement made in reaction to Black Lives Matter.
Photos and videos of the officers quickly generated online attention and outrage.
"Thin Blue Line masks shall not be worn by our on-duty members," Scott told San Fransisco police officers last Friday, KTVU reported.
Scott said in a statement:
The San Francisco Police Department stands for safety with respect for all, and in consideration of concerns some community members have expressed that 'thin blue line' symbolism on some of our officers' face masks may be perceived as divisive or disrespectful, we are taking steps with our officers and the Police Officers Association to provide alternative, neutral personal protective equipment.
In the midst of a global pandemic that has seen far too many first responders lose their lives, across the nation and around the world, it's important to remember that the masks our officers wear were meant to honor all who make the ultimate sacrifice for the people we serve.
Retired American Civil Liberties Union lawyer John Crew told the San Francisco Chronicle that the biggest issue with the masks is that they violate policy regarding political symbols.
"This is two issues combined," he claimed. "The thin blue line is a political symbol. And it's a POA-branded mask. It's like wearing a political button."
In a separate interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Crew said, "Who the heck in the command staff, anybody from sergeant and above who saw these masks, thought that this would be okay?"
Police union president Tony Montoya said Scott's command staff were shown the masks before they were used by officers.