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News Release
Statement by Chief McElvain regarding community support event - 06/25/20

Vancouver, Wash. – On Wednesday, June 24th members of our community visited the East and West precincts to show support by bringing by signs, posters and thank you cards. These were hung outside on the buildings of both precincts and our staff were there to gratefully receive them. What followed has drawn much criticism, directed primarily at me, and I want to clarify what actually occurred, especially in light of an online article that is circulating that has many inaccuracies. The article states that I “ordered everything that was put up by our families and community to be taken down because it was divisive.” This is blatantly untrue. Let me be clear, I said nothing to anyone ordering items to be removed, and I do not believe that community members bringing posters and cards to our personnel or precincts is divisive, quite the opposite, it is much appreciated.  I was not aware that someone took the initiative to remove the items of appreciation until later, and was surprised to learn that the removal was attributed to me.

What is true is we find ourselves in the middle of the recent public discourse regarding the "Thin Blue Line" symbol, which is viewed as divisive and fearful by many in our community. Although I appreciate those who embrace the “Thin Blue Line” for all its honorable intentions, today, it has disrupted trust in policing for some members of our community.  As law enforcement professionals, we must always put at the forefront assurance to the community that our buildings feel safe for anyone that enters and that our officers are here to serve everyone equally and without bias. 

Those of us in the vocation of Law Enforcement have a long held belief that the “Thin Blue Line” symbol, whether stand alone or embedded on the US Flag, represented solidarity and professional pride within a dangerous, difficult profession and symbolizes a solemn tribute to fallen police officers. Unfortunately, others have misappropriated this symbol to perpetuate racism and division from our community. It is disheartening to know this symbol has been "co-opted" by certain groups and individuals to propagate hate. Underrepresented communities are associating this symbol with oppression and hate and therefore, I did make the decision to direct VPD staff that no “Thin Blue Line” symbol or icons will be allowed to be worn by employees, or displayed in or on City of Vancouver property (buildings, uniforms, vehicles).This had nothing to do with the yesterday’s community appreciation event yet it is being inaccurately tied to this directive.

I want to start by clarifying what actually occurred yesterday, and assure everyone that none of the posters or cards from yesterday’s support event were ‘ripped down’, everything was brought inside and is intact. I also want to explain why the posters and cards were removed after the event concluded, and emphasize how much I truly appreciate the community bringing notes and posters of thanks especially during this time when police officers feel underappreciated. We receive these types of cards, posters and notes frequently and our staff greatly appreciate them. However, we must always be cognizant of how long notes and posters hang on the exterior of our buildings, regardless of the lobby closures which are currently still in place. Notes and cards can get destroyed by weather, blow off the walls and create other issues for our neighbors so we must balance how long these memorials of thanks stay outside. This has been our practice for many years and the same thing occurred yesterday. The group took photos, gathered with officers and after the event concluded, the materials were taken down and brought inside. We also make it a practice to take photos of notes and posters, whether they are left outside or delivered to our staff, and post them on our social media for others to see and share indefinitely.

In an effort to mend any hurt feelings which yesterday’s removal unintentionally caused, we will be displaying the notes and letters, minus any “thin blue line” items, in our East and West precinct lobbies, which are scheduled to re-open to the public on Monday, June 29.

I truly appreciate the community’s support and understanding, not just in times of turbulence, but all the time.  Moreover, I appreciate the opportunity to clarify the facts and provide context to this situation.





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