Thin Blue Line

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The "Thin Blue Line" symbol
A blue laser beam was projected during the 24th annual National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on 13 May 2012 in Washington, D.C.

The Thin Blue Line is a symbol used by law enforcement, originating in the United Kingdom but now prevalent in the United States and Canada to commemorate fallen and to show support for the living law enforcement officers and to symbolize the relationship of law enforcement in the community as the protectors of fellow civilians from criminal elements.[1] It is an analogy to the term Thin Red Line.

Union Jack variation of Thin Blue Line emblem

In the United Kingdom, the primary use of the badge is a mark of respect for fallen police officers or staff. However, it also represents the thin line between order and chaos - this has become a large topic of interest in recent years, as severe cuts to government spending on public services has led to a dramatic decline in the number of police officers and staff in the UK.[2] A variation of the emblem places a horizontal thin blue line across a Union Jack rendered in black and white. The sale of badges with this emblem is used to raise money for families of police officers that have died in the line of duty.[3]

In the United States of America, each stripe on the emblem represents certain respective figures: the blue center line represents law enforcement, the top black stripe represents the public and the bottom represents the criminals. The idea behind the graphic is that law enforcement (the blue line) is what stands between the violence and victimization by criminals and the would-be victims of crime.[4]

US flag based "Thin Blue Line"

Proponents of the symbol assert that the identifier is intended to show support for police and the US flag-based version of the thin blue line has become a symbol for the Blue Lives Matter movement. In the wake of the 2016 shooting of Dallas police officers, a US flag based version became popular among law enforcement personnel, their families, and supporters.[1]


The term came into broad use after the release of Errol Morris' 1988 documentary film The Thin Blue Line, about the murder of a Dallas Police officer Robert W Wood. Judge Don Metcalfe who presided over the trial of Randall Adams, states in the film, that prosecutor "Doug Mulder's final argument was one I'd never heard before: about the "thin blue line" of police that separate the public from anarchy." The judge admitted to being deeply moved by the prosecutor's words, though the trial resulted in a wrongful conviction and death sentence.[5]


The Thin Blue Line emblem has been controversial in both the US and the UK.

  • In 2015, police officers in Sussex, England were told by their superiors to remove the badge from their uniforms since it was not part of their official uniform. There was a concern that it could be seen as a political statement related to cutbacks in police forces.[2][3]
  • In Chicago, in November 2016, protesters carried the US version of the flag to show support for police after a police shooting of a black man. The protesters confronted another group of protesters who felt the shooting was racially motivated.[6]
  • The US version of the flag has been seen by some as a desecration of the official US flag.[1]
  • In Warwick, New York, the painting of a blue line down a roadway was protested by some citizens as being in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. The town has since painted the line red white and blue, the colors of the US flag.[7]


  • The Thin Red Line - Fire services[8]
  • The Thin Silver LineCorrections officer
  • The Thin Yellow LineTow truck drivers[9] Security Officers.
  • The Thin Green Line - In the UK; Ambulance service staff. In the US; Border Patrol, US Military, Park Rangers, Game Wardens, and other conservation officers and federal officers.
  • The Thin Gold LineDispatchers[10]
  • The Thin White LineEmergency medical services.[citation needed] The thin white line differs from other thin lines in that the background is blue instead of black, (yet some will use black instead of blue,) with a white line crossing horizontally through the middle. EMS also still uses the "Thin Orange Line" which is primarily used by Search and Rescue.
  • Thin Black Line – Nurses. The thin black line differs from other thin lines because it is a white background with a horizontal black line through the middle. Nurses will also use The Thin White Line.[8]
  • Thin Camo Line - Military Personnel. The Thin Camo Line usually will use the NATO style camouflage, (Green, Red-Brown, and Black.) Different branches of the military can use their branches camo to represent the Thin Camo Line.

See also[edit]