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.”