Protocol for the Thin Blue and Red Line Flags

DrillMaster Honor Guard Training, Instructional 2 Comments

FYI, this flag violates the Flag Code. 

Question: I am a funeral director and have recently made funeral arrangements for a retired police officer. He is not a military veteran, so the family would like to drape his casket with the thin blue line flag (the black and white flag with the blue line representing police officers). I know with the American flag being draped on the casket, nothing can be placed on top of the flag (ex: flowers, medals, pictures, etc.) Would this etiquette still be followed for a police officer thin blue line flag? I just want to make sure I am following the correct protocol and do not want to upset anyone regardless if they were military, police, firemen, etc. Any advice would help!

My Answer: What a great question! And, I love the idea of draping the Thin Blue Line flag on the casket. Very appropriate. Let’s create protocol right now since there really isn’t anything written, to my knowledge, to govern the use of the Thin Line flags.

We know that nothing goes on top of the following flags that can be draped on a casket: American, tribal nation, state, city. The Thin Line Flags could be treated the same since the flags represent the first responder family. Out of respect for what the flag represents, just like the others previously mentioned, I would say no to placing anything on any flag. I’m quite sure you are aware of a small table placed near the casket that serves to hold a picture and military paraphernalia. For this officer, you could do the same.

This is a good mourning flag. 

The one thing that sticks in my mind is that the flag comes in 3′ x 5′, but an interment flag is 5′ x 9′. Are you going to use something else to make up the couple of feet at each end of the casket or just center the flag? I don’t know how that would look.

Thank you for wanting to provide the very best for a fallen Thin Blue Line hero.

EDIT: There is a slippery slope here. Where does this end? As a friend of mine put it, do we have an apple flag for a fallen teacher (thanks, Glen!)? The American flag is for all members and veterans of the military. It is appropriate for first responders. What might even be more appropriate for first responders is the state, county, or city flag. 

As I write and say all of the time, Education is 🔑. Just like sounding Taps, there are standards to which we must adhere.   

Comments 2

  1. I have a red line black & white flag above a firefighters flag on my flag pole . My question is am I proper ? I’m a Army veteran and a 20 year retired Fireman . Some left me a letter in mail box wanting to take down my red line flag because it is not respecting the red white blue flag.i fly these two flag for respect to all Firemen who serve now and WHO GAVE ALL.

    1. Post

      Hi Ray,
      There is a very big issue with taking the American flag image in black and white and using it for something else.
      I very much understand the respect that you want to show by flying the flag and I do appreciate it. However, the problem, as I stated above, is that these Red and Blue Line Flags actually go against the Flag Code, which says that any image of the American flag should be considered the American flag. Only highlighting one red stripes can be seen as inappropriate. I see and appreciate both sides of the issue.
      I’ll not tell you, or anyone else, what they should do, I try to provide education and guidance. The decision is yours, sir. I will leave you with this: If others feel so strongly against flying the flag (and have justification for it – whether they know it or not), why not display it somewhere inside.
      Thank you very much for your service to our nation as a Soldier, your city as a firefighter, and your question.

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