A “thin blue line” flag with the message “Trump 2020” was recently hung in a detectives' room inside a Mattapan police station, in what one city councilor is calling an “inappropriate” incident that may have violated department protocol.
Police Commissioner William Gross said that the hanging of the flag, which is a black and white version of the American flag with a blue stripe across the middle to represent police, was the result of “a joke among a small number of department employees in an office that is not accessible to the public."
“These employees were poking fun at one another’s political beliefs," Gross said in a statement. “The flag was taken down when it was brought to the attention of the supervisor.”
Boston Police Sergeant Eddy Chrispin, who is the president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, said he became aware of the flag Wednesday night. He said that when he reached out to command staff “it was summarily taken down.”
“Regardless of whether or not it was a joke, it was a joke done in poor taste and more importantly political activity is not allowed in the workplace,” said Chrispin.
He added, “Look, there are plenty of people one way or another that could be offended by the political messaging and it has no place in a police station, especially in these times."
Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell, a persistent proponent of police reform who is running for mayor, said she was “extremely disturbed and upset” to learn of the flag’s placement in a public building.
“It’s inappropriate to have those types of signs in city buildings and it’s illegal,” said Campbell.
Trump, she said, has repeatedly “proven himself to be racist and corrupt.” To place such a flag in a station “where we know many officers of color” work and in a station that serves communities of color only creates more divisiveness, she said. Whoever placed the flag, she said, should be disciplined.
“Someone should be held accountable,” said Campbell, whose council district includes a large portion of Mattapan.
Mattapan is a majority Black neighborhood, with 72 percent of residents identifying as Black, and 16 percent identifying as Hispanic or Latino, according to a February report of the Boston Planning & Development Agency.
Campbell said the incident illustrates that the city still needs to do work to “address the bias and discrimination within our police department and the culture that would allow this to happen."
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office declined to comment on the incident.
In response to a question about whether the flag violated department protocol because it included a political message, Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a police department spokesman, directed the Globe to the department’s rules and procedures posted online.
Those regulations state that police officers are prohibited from “publicly endorsing or opposing political candidates” in such a way that one might “conclude that the employee was acting in his or her official capacity as a member of the Boston Police Department.”