Sunday Commentary: Reisig’s Office Displays Thin Blue Line Flag Despite the Controversy That Swirls Around It

By David M. Greenwald

Woodland, CA – The Yolo County DA’s Office on Friday afternoon tweeted out what was supposed to be an ode to officers killed in the line of duty who will be honored this week.  But the photo shows the Thin Blue Line or Blue Lives Matter Flag, with Deputy DA Matt De Moura and former Deputy DA Kyle Hasapes carrying the flag down Main Street in Woodland.  Behind them, decked in sunglasses, DA Jeff Reisig.

Clearly the photo is a few years old—pre-COVID—and Hasapes has since left the department for the Placer County DA’s office.  But that was the choice of photos used for a tweet.

The choice of the Blues Lives Matter flag is odd.  The flag, traditionally a symbol of solidarity with the fallen, has become controversial as it increasingly has been seen as a pushback against the Black Lives Matter movement.

Reisig has been attempting to re-frame his image as that of a moderate reformer in between Anne Marie Schubert, the Sacramento DA, and Chesa Boudin, the more reform-minded San Francisco DA.

They gained a boost last month when the Sacramento Bee published the editorial: “Yolo County DA wants to address racial bias. Why the Sacramento region should, too.”

Wrote the Bee, “Racial bias pervades the criminal justice system, but there’s some promising news coming out of Yolo County. District Attorney Jeff Reisig is pioneering reforms to increase transparency and shed light on potential disparities. Every DA in California — including Sacramento’s — should take notes.”

They write: “During the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, public defenders in Yolo County spoke out about racial disparities in criminal sentencing and joined protesters in a demonstration outside the courthouse. Reisig denied the claims. But it’s clear that he wants to be more proactive and address these realities head-on.”

But just as Reisig disparaged Public Defender Tracie Olson for speaking out last year, Reisig now undermines his own message by tweeting out the Thin Blue Line flag, dripped in racist and other controversy.

“The controversial version of the U.S. flag has been hailed as a sign of police solidarity and criticized as a symbol of white supremacy,” the Marshall Project reported last June in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and Blue Lives Matter counter protests.

They note: “Those who fly the flag have said it stands for solidarity and professional pride within a dangerous, difficult profession and a solemn tribute to fallen police officers. But it has also been flown by white supremacists, appearing next to Confederate flags at the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.”

Consider as well, many areas have actually banned the image because it is incendiary.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott “banned his officers from wearing face masks emblazoned with the thin blue line flag, worrying they would be seen as “divisive and disrespectful.” The masks had been distributed by the local police union, which accused the department of failing to provide masks.”

Then there was the Capitol siege in January

The Washington Post noted in an article in January, “In a crowd where some carried flags bearing a thin blue line — a pro-police symbol that critics claim also stands for white supremacy and opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement — and shirts adorned with ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ a tide of anger and frustration rose as officers pushed them back.”

The Post adds, “Conservatives and members of the far-right long have sought to position themselves on the same side of the societal and cultural divide as police. Republicans backed President Trump’s campaign message of ‘law and order,’ and amid rising calls to ‘defund the police’ during racial justice protests last year, the GOP was swift to criticize efforts to shrink police budgets. Police unions and officers vocally supported Trump’s bid for a second term.

“But on Wednesday, as the Capitol was being breached and ransacked, people who see themselves as friends of the police were confronted with the reality that law enforcement would not always respond in kind.”

Jeff Reisig and his supporters would no doubt respond, as many allies have elsewhere, that the use of the flag was in solidarity with fallen police officers.  Its use was definitely not meant as a showing of solidarity with white supremacy.

But that’s exactly the problem.  The flag has been co-opted by the far right, white supremacists, and those pushing back on the Black Lives Matter movement.  Given the times, isn’t it at best tone deaf to display the Thin Blue Line Flag so prominently in a tweet like this where the DA himself appears?

In my view at this point, the symbol is at the very least racially charged—if not outright racist.  The DA should have known better.  And sadly, the local media will not call him on this.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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26 Comments

  1. Keith Olsen

    And sadly, the local media will not call him on this.

    But you can always count on the Vanguard to never miss an opportunity to stir it up.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Many reforms in the justice system, and the abolition of the ‘death-penalty’ and abolition of LWOPP are also very controversial, yes?  Defunding law enforcement is very controversial, right?

        Or, do you mean no public official can in any way (Reisig was not carrying the flag) offend your world view?

        I don’t recall you, the VG, banning images of Natalie Corona displaying the ‘blue line flag’, or criticizing it in the days after, year after she was murdered.

        A test:

        natalie corona pictures – Bing images

        Edit/deletion from you or moderator coming?  I just displayed an image of Officer Corona proudly displaying the (by your account/view) ‘blue line flag’… she, too, was a public employee…

  2. Ron Oertel

    Clearly the phone is a few years old—pre-COVID—and Hasapes has since left the department for the Placer County DA’s office.

    True – it’s a gigantic, cumbersome device.  And – check out those bell-bottom pants and tweed jackets!  (Was “tweed” a thing?)

    But that was the choice of photos used for a tweet.

    Has this come to the attention of Twitter, yet?  🙂

     

  3. Ron Glick

    Hilarious, I’m sure the DA’s office is glad for the publicity you are giving them on this. You take the bait every time. Beyond Davis, in greater Yolo County, I’m sure this is a fight Reisig loves. Just like Trump with “defunding the police” almost cost Biden the election and Pelosi the House.

    Some people never learn. Despite any failures, in the eyes of most people cops are popular.

      1. Ron Oertel

        What “racially charged term” are you referring to, here?

        Are you sure that this response belongs here, rather than in the “thug” article?

  4. Don Shor

    I follow the Yolo DA’s twitter feed. It’s generally very innocuous, recently featuring things like Child Abuse Awareness Week, comments about recidivism from $0 bail, touting their reform programs, and so on. I seriously doubt Reisig personally manages it or even pays much attention to it.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The thin blue line imagery is entirely appropriate in this context. As it was in regard to the photo of Natalie Corona.

        ” . . . an ode to officers killed in the line of duty who will be honored this week.”

        1. David Greenwald

          It’s actually not. It’s very problematic and has been coopted by white supremists. I was just talking to a national report who told me that he has not seen a DA use it before. Found that interesting.

        2. Ron Oertel

          It’s very problematic and has been coopted by white supremists.

          Don’t know if that’s true, but I’d suggest not paying an extraordinary amount of attention to how others use or co-opt symbols.  Just as it doesn’t particularly upset me to see anyone burning a flag.  And if you really want to know, I don’t care much about Kaepernick’s “pig socks”, either.  (Though I would think that his employer might.)

          Of course, some see the “Black Lives Matter” signs in a negative manner, as well.  And yet, the city has an officially-sanctioned location for that, in Central Park.  (Not to mention directly on public streets, at times.) I wonder if they (or the folks responsible for that space in Central Park) would welcome a blue line flag, there.

          I was just talking to a national report who told me that he has not seen a DA use it before.

          And if true (certainly not definitive proof of anything), so what?

          If I were you, I’d drop this type of article and focus on the challenger, instead. Assuming that you support her. Is she similar to Johannsen? (I haven’t seen you champion her, like you did with Johannsen.)

        3. Ron Oertel

          (Just to clarify the comment above, I just recalled that the Vanguard also needs to heed a “thin line” in regard to advocating for a candidate.)

          My final comment.

        4. Alan Miller

          I wonder if they (or the folks responsible for that space in Central Park) would welcome a blue line flag, there.

          Plenty of those flags in Central Park and all over town in honor of Natalie Corona.  Then, two days after the shooting, BLM Sacramento declared for people to steal the flags in Davis for a BLM “art piece”.  That’s when I was done with the ‘organization’ BLM.  Not the sentiment, but the organization.

        5. David Greenwald

          “Don’t know if that’s true,”

          Yes you do.  I cited several examples in the article.  It’s such a problem that a number of departments have banned their use.

      2. Ron Oertel

        But if you want to “complain” about something in regard to this, maybe complain about police extensively shutting down roads for funeral processions, when it’s one of their own.

        In my opinion, this is essentially “forcing” the public to acknowledge and pay homage to their loss. Reminds me of the protestors shutting down freeways, for “their” cause.

        1. Bill Marshall

          You have no clue, Ron O… read the Davis Municipal Code sometime… specifically provides for traffic control for funeral processions, regardless of ‘status’ (upon request, or the ‘obvious’)… has been in there for maybe 80 years… duh!

          I’ve been in the processions for Vigfus Asmundson, John Peel… Paul Taloff… others… none were police officers, but as the cortege passed, the ordinance was observed, police escorts closed intervening streets long enough for the cortege to pass, intact…

          Not unique to Davis… New Orleans… Lawrence, MA… was in one for my Mom, and later, for her younger brother…

          Will remember, tho’ you’ll not want to be ‘honored’ by such traffic control measures… your right to decline!

          In my opinion, this is essentially “forcing” the public to acknowledge and pay homage to their loss.

          Very strange, possibly ‘sick’ observation.  I promise to not pay homage to your “loss”… if that helps…

           

           

        2. Ron Oertel

          The comment was not made in regard to municipal code.

          It’s in regard to the practice of a massive show of police forces shutting down roadways (regardless of locale), with police vehicles and uniformed officers participating in the procession/shutdown.

          I’m also not sure who pays for that attendance, by officers in uniform, using official vehicles.

          I’m pretty sure that this does not occur with anyone else’s “loss”.

          Honestly, do you even think, before you respond?

           

  5. Bill Marshall

    One other observation… when I first saw the “blue line flag”, I saw a blue ‘field’ (where the ‘stars’ are), and red and white stripes, except the one blue one… might have been the photos, might have been ‘denial’, might have been “old-timers”…

    With the current form, white/black/blue, it is actually a desecration of the image of a flag that I still respect, deeply… as I abhorred those who used American flag ‘patches’ on the knees of their jeans, used as “butt patches” on jeans, headbands, etc.  Another symbol co-opted by the far left and far right…

    Both my grandfathers, father, and father-in-law, an Aunt, an Aunt of my spouse, served… and had the American Flag on their caskets… I possess two of those, and respect them…

    I find the ‘derivatives’, right or left, as VERY offensive… the flag should be a unifying symbol, not a divisive one…

    Just one Eagle Scout’s perspective… have at it folks, to denigrate my opinion, challenge my biases… I will hold it, despite any opinions, rhetoric, to the contrary… but will not ‘debate’… beneath me (I hope)…

    The US Flag is a symbol… but an important one in my mind… and those who modify it, desecrate it, wear it inappropriately, use it for ‘sick’ political purposes, will get no respect from me… “sorry ’bout that”, but that’s who I am…

    1. Eric Gelber

      I have mixed feelings about this. Unlike the Confederate flag—which represents a traitorous rebellion to preserve and expand slavery—the thin-blue-line flag can represent different things to different people. The tradition of memorializing police who died in the line of duty, in May, goes back to 1962 and JFK. https://camemorial.org/the-memorial/general-information/

      I believe the Yolo DA’s intent was in support of this six decades old tradition. https://yoloda.org/national-police-week-starts-may-12th/

      On the other hand, the flag itself has come to connote a response to the BLM movement and is, thus, for many, a symbol in support of law enforcement policies and actions replete with systemic racism. As such, I believe there are better and less provocative means of memorializing fallen police. Highlighting the thin-blue-line flag demonstrates poor and tone-deaf judgement.

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