Statement about “Thin Blue Line” Imagery

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. But like many things in our society, we understand the imagery of the thin blue line has evolved to mean different things to different people. Sentiments about the imagery range from neutral to denoting professional pride to expressing support for law enforcement to highlighting a toxic “us vs. them” law enforcement culture informed by hate.

This is particularly true today when the imagery has, in some cases, been co-opted to denote support of white supremacist ideologies, shirk police accountability, or otherwise dishonor the police profession. Given that, we want our community to know two things. 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.

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. Regarding the concerns detailed above expressed by some members of our campus community about “thin blue line” imagery, we commit to including this concern as part of our ongoing discussions both internally and externally. We will continue communicating relevant progress and updates to our campus community moving forward.

– Chief Kristen Roman