Protocol for the Thin Line Flag on a Casket

DrillMasterDrillCenter News 8 Comments

The Thin Blue Line and the Thin Red Line.

Hi there–I am a funeral director and have recently made funeral arrangements for a retired police officer. He is not a military veteran, but 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!


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 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.

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?

There is also the fact that the Thin Line Flags that are a version of the American flag, actually go against the Flag Code. Just FYI. I recommend the flag with the black background and the vertical blue line in the center.

I hope this answers your question adequately. Thank you for wanting to provide the very best for a fallen Thin Blue Line hero.

The Slippery Slope

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 key. Just like sounding Taps, there are standards to which we must adhere.   

Comments 8

    1. Post

      Ms. Lusby,

      As with all commercial flags, it should be folded into a rectangle. The triangle fold is reserved for the American flag and some state/territory flags.

      The American flag drapes the casket and is presented to the next of kin.


  1. Question: is it wrong to do a flag folding ceremony with the thin blue line flag for a fallen officer?
    I have never heard of this being done before and mentioned this to a friend of mine who is planning to do this at a celebration of life ceremony for an officer who passed away..not on duty, and she seemed offended that I even brought it up that it might be distasteful., as this is usually only done with the American Flag.

    1. Post

      Ms. Stetzel,

      It is inappropriate to treat a flag that borders on violating the Flag Code as the American flag and to replace the American flag with it as if it has the same meaning.

      There is no reason not to present a folded American flag even though thd officer’s death was not a LODD. Every American can have a flag on their casket, who folds and presents it is the question and it seems your friend has that taken care of.

      The problem lies in feelings. Your friend’s offence is misplaced. A thin line flag has no meaning except what an individual gives it and, as I previously mentioned, replacing even the meaning of the American flag is inappropriate since our national flag has so much history and meaning.


  2. I’m a civilian who likes to honor our service men and women by flying military branch flags on holidays. I want to honor first responders too and would appreciate your thoughts on flying the black with a red line and black with a blue line flags. Would it be appropriate to fly them on the same line with military and the US flag? Should they be placed last and would the pow/Mia flag go above them? Would the protocol be any different on September 11th? Thanks for your advice. Jim

    1. Post

      Hi Jim,

      Great question. The black flags with the single-color line are quite appropriate to fly.
      Flags flown on one halyard usually number no more than two or, at the most, three.
      While the POW/MIA flag has the distinction of being last, that’s only after military flags. The Thin Line flags would fly after/beneath the POW.
      There are six days each year when the POW/MIA flag is flown next to/below the American flag (I forget the dates right now but they are in another article). The Thin Line flags will always be last since they have nothing to do with the Department of Defense.

  3. Not sure if this is a silly question but, in the case of a flag like the thin line, what would be the protocol for giving it back to the family, since there are no honors or flag folding? Is there a proper way at the end of the service?

    1. Post

      Not a silly question at all. My recommendation is to fold the flag and hand it to the next of kin after the ceremony. The Thin Line flags should not be presented as a replacement for the American flag.

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