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Smithtown Fire Department reinstalls thin blue line flag

The thin blue line flag is shown on

The thin blue line flag is shown on the back of one of the Smithtown Fire Department's rescue trucks. It was put there to honor two NYPD officers gunned down in the line of duty in 2014. Credit: News 12 Long Island

Smithtown Fire District commissioners and department chiefs Friday said they would once more fly a thin blue line flag from a department rescue truck, reversing a decision to replace it with an American flag.

The reversal came "in response to overwhelming community outreach," fire officials said in an announcement posted Friday on the department website. "The flag will be reinstalled on its fire apparatus today and will be flown with pride, with its original intention and meaning in mind, where it will remain."

An accompanying post on the department’s Facebook page had drawn nearly 3,000 interactions by Friday afternoon, including a comment from Smithtown Councilman Thomas Lohmann, a retired NYPD detective: "Thank you to the Leadership of the Smithtown Fire Department for righting this wrong! My law enforcement brothers and sisters have always stood in support of our brothers and sisters in the fire service and we always will!"

Fire district commissioners did not respond to a request for comment, and Christopher Ring, a lawyer for the district, could not be reached.

The thin blue line design — similar to an American flag but mostly black and white with a single blue stripe through the middle — is intended to signify law enforcement solidarity. Smithtown firefighters began flying it on the Rescue 9 truck after NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were killed in a 2014 ambush by a man who had vowed to kill officers to avenge the killings of Black men by police.

Smithtown fire officials removed the flag after a reporter, responding to a tip from an area woman, contacted commissioners with questions and an image of the flag flying from the back of Rescue 9 as it drove down Smithtown’s Main Street.

The flag has been flown at protests that became violent, such as by a mob during the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol and by white nationalists who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

On Jan. 15, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department chief banned officers there from displaying thin blue line imagery while on duty, citing the "fear and mistrust that it currently evokes for too many in our community." Last spring, San Francisco’s police chief said the city’s officers would wear neutral face coverings after officers sparked controversy by wearing blue line face masks while patrolling a May Day protest.

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