After receiving complaints, the state ordered the family of a fallen police officer to remove a display they placed below the memorial marker on a highway. However, the family alleged that the complaints were completely unfounded and that the display should stay.
While tending to a fatal crash in 2017, Cleveland Police Officer David Fahey Jr tragically lost his life. The 39-year-old officer was setting out flares when he was struck and killed by Israel Alvarez, who was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison for driving under the influence, drug possession, and fleeing the scene.
To commemorate David Fahey’s service, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) unveiled a memorial sign on Interstate 90, naming the section of road “Officer David Fahey Memorial Highway.” Since then, Fahey’s family and friends have held an annual memorial event, attaching a fabric Thin Blue Line flag under the memorial sign to honor the fallen officer.
After several years, the family replaced the fabric banner with a wooden Thin Blue Line flag, which they mounted below the highway sign. Much to their dismay, they received a notice from ODOT informing them that the display was too offensive to remain on the highway.
Initially, ODOT claimed that the problem was that the wooden sign wasn’t submitted for approval before the family put it on display, WKYC reports.
“Any item put in the public right-of-way along our roadsides must adhere to state and federal regulations,” Public Information Officer Amanda McFarland with ODOT, said. “If an item poses a safety hazard, impedes our ability to do our job, or we receive complaints, ODOT’s standard procedure is to attempt to identify the owner and reunite them with the item.”
ODOT took the flag down, but the family says they worked it out and it went back up the same day. However, the agency once again came forward to order its removal. This time they gave a different reason for the demand.
ODOT admitted that the initial notice for the wooden sign was sparked by a “complaint” and that the offense was the catalyst for its removal.
“On May 23rd, //Cleveland.com/ Plain Dealer reached out to ODOT about a flag attached to the Officer Fahey Memorial along I-90. //Cleveland.com/Plain Dealer asked when the flag would be removed. Because of this complaint, ODOT has contacted Officer Fahey’s family and asked that it be removed. ODOT trusts the family will remove the flag in the near future and considers this issue closed.”
The revelation that there were complaints concerning their wooden sign and now the fabric flag has the family believing the move is politically motivated, WOIO reports.
“It is personal because if you drive along the highways, you’ll see your political signs,” said Jackie Ketterer, Officer David Fahey’s mom. “You’ll see your other special interest signs that are up along the highway, those are still there.”
Ketterer feels that they are specifically being targeted by anti-police activists and that the state is submitting to the offended minority.
“The public has had an outcry against the thin blue line and pro-police so if you’re pro-police right now it’s a bad thing,” said Ketterer. “I’m very upset because I feel betrayed by the public and the community that my son served because they’re taking one or two persons personal objective and using it to take this flag down when we feel that it should honor the fallen including our son.”
The family feels that they are being treated unfairly, especially since other signs that are openly political or personal have been allowed to remain.
The state has insisted that the family remove the flag and keep any other display away from the sign unless it is pre-approved. Perhaps, there may be a discrimination lawsuit in the future.