Wauwatosa police sport thin blue line flag during children’s book reading event

By: - April 6, 2021 10:17 am
Pictures posted by WPD's Facebook page, one of which shows the flag in the background. (Screenshot | Wauwatosa PD Facebook page)

Pictures posted by WPD’s Facebook page, one of which shows the flag in the background. (Screenshot | Wauwatosa PD Facebook page)

The Wauwatosa Police Department (WPD) caught online criticism after a picture of an officer participating in a book reading event at the local middle school surfaced with a “thin blue line” flag in the background. Particularly after the protests of 2020, which focused on acts of police violence and misconduct, the flags are sometimes regarded as symbols of unquestioning support of law enforcement.

The book reading occurred at Wauwatosa’s Longfellow Middle School, and involved several officers. One of the officers, who has served for years as a School Resource Officer, read her book with a flag in the background showing an American flag, modified to have a single blue streak through the body. Wauwatosa was the scene of  protests over a series of police shootings during 2020. Protests revolved around actual police shootings that brought people into the streets as well as the treatment of the protesters themselves by law enforcement.

The extent to which WPD engaged in politicized targeting as a result of the protests is still being investigated. Some who blasted the department on social media saw the flag’s placement as a not-so-subtle message to the suburb’s impressionable pre-high-school-age youth.


Wisconsin Examiner reached out to Longfellow Middle School and the Wauwatosa School District for comment on the flag, where it was located and how many of them are on display in the middle school. Although neither have responded, WPD spokeswoman Sgt. Abby Pavlik noted that, “the flag is in the School Resource Officer’s office at Longfellow Middle School. The reading was recorded for an ‘all school read’ for Washington Elementary School.”


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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.