by Dennis Dalman
Sartell police cars will soon be sporting new decals after Police Chief Jim Hughes and other officers recently agreed to replace the “thin blue line” flag decal that some Sartell residents considered inappropriate and/or offensive.
The new decal will show the words “REMEMBERING OUR FALLEN” above a blue line. Under the blue line it states “IN VALOR THERE IS HOPE.”
The now-defunct decal, which was on the right side of police cars, showed a thin blue line in the middle of wavy black-and-white flag stripes.
Last March, Sartell resident Hannah Kosloski started a petition that was eventually signed by 600 people. Her petition, calling for removal of the decals, stated the thin blue line logo had been used by groups like “Blue Lives Matter” (named as an echo of “Black Lives Matter”) to mock calls for racial justice and police accountability.
That decal flag, Kosloski wrote, “is now used as a tool of oppression and hatred. We need to be taking direct action to learn, re-learn and assess our own racial bias in order to address national systemic issues that exist in our own backyard. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Kosloski filed a complaint with the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union a few months ago.
However, there was plenty of push-back from other Sartell residents who started their own petition in support of the thin blue line flag decal. The petition was signed by 2,150 people. Kosloski’s complaint, they said, was much ado about nothing. Hundreds of comments were posted on the Sartell Police Department’s Facebook thanking the police, praising them for the good works they do, offering support and gratitude and agreeing the thin blue line decal exemplifies the selfless work police do and the dangers they face every day. Those who opposed the decal, said some commentators on the Facebook page, were whiners and anarchists and the controversy should never have been an issue. One post said the police department was “bowing to the Black Lives Matter” movement. Another claimed Black Lives Matter is “a Marxist organization that thrives on chaos, manipulation and destruction in order to attain their evil agenda.”
Kosloski began receiving online threats. A 1917 graduate of Sartell High School, she earned a degree in communications studies and studio art from Concordia College, Moorhead. She is a member of the “Envisioned Quality of All” group in Sartell and works at a restaurant in St. Joseph.
The Sartell Police Department, in a recent posting on its Facebook, stated it agreed to replace the decal with a new one, even though there was absolutely no intent to adopt that decal with any kind of overtones of racism or hatred.
However, opponents of the thin blue line flags and logos point out that however well-intentioned it may have been at first, it has become a symbol of racism. It was flaunted by rioters at the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol building Jan. 6 and at the White Supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville some years ago. Therefore, opponents argue, such a tainted symbol should not be attached to police cars, paid for by the public, when many citizens view it as an affront to decency, morality and democracy.
According to the Sartell Police Department, those decals, the former one and the new one, are “to remember the officers that have given their lives in the line of duty. There will be no confusion about that or what it stands for and will display that with pride.”
The statement, signed by Chief Jim Hughes and the Sartell Police Department, says that “This decision to remove (decal) was not an easy one,” but it was made for the safety of officers, support staff, reserve officers and firefighters, as well as for the safety of residents.
The statement continues: “We want our community to feel safe to come to our building to report a crime, register for permits, get advice and guidance from a police officer or even use the Safe Room to escape an abuser they are fleeing, and this (dropping the decal) is the best course of action to keep this intact.”
Kosloski stated she is happy the police department decided to remove the decals. She also praised the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union and a group called TakeActionMN for helping in her efforts to get the decals removed.