While waiting at a stoplight in Portland, Oregon, a criminal defense attorney noticed a decal on the police cruiser in front of her. After taking a closer look, she warned the city about a potential lawsuit for allowing the “terrifying” window sticker.
Self-described criminal defense and appellate attorney Lindsey Burrows was in her vehicle when she spotted a Portland Police SUV just ahead of her at a stoplight. When she noticed an odd window sticker in the vehicle’s back window, she quickly snapped a picture that has since sparked a legal storm.
For many activists, Portland has become a hub for protesting and social movements, including the demand for the dismantling of law enforcement. Of course, while protesting perceived systematic bias in the justice system, many have turned their focus and outrage toward what they purport to be symbols of racism rather than inarguable acts of racial injustice.
Burrows posted a photo of a patrol vehicle from the back, which displays a small “thin blue line” flag sticker in the shape of the state of Oregon. While posting the image to Twitter, Burrows expressed her outrage and claimed that the city could soon see a costly lawsuit over the decal.
“This is unacceptable,” Burrows wrote. “Is the person driving this car going to be conducting traffic/pedestrian stops?! Terrifying. Also didn’t the county just settle a $100k lawsuit over this bs? The city is next, I guess…”
Within hours, her post garnered the attention of the media, which appeared to do some of the legal work for Burrows. According to The Oregonian, the sticker is a violation of city policy on “private decals or markings,” which are prohibited from being displayed on city vehicles.
The media have propagated that the “thin blue line” is fundamentally racist and only surfaced with the recent pro-law enforcement movement. However, the symbol has been popular with officers since the 1950s and has served to express support for police and their sacrifices. Still, media figures and activists like Burrows have inarguably labeled the sign a hate symbol, demanding it be removed from the public eye.
“It concerned me that Portland Police would display this symbol without (or despite?) recognizing that the symbol had been used in opposition to the #blacklivesmatter movement and by white supremacists,” she said.
Portland Police Lt. Tina Jones soon became aware of the tweet and responded to the outcry. Although she didn’t say if the department had opened an investigation, she confirmed that the decal, if placed on the vehicle by an officer, would be a “minor policy violation” warranting of disciplinary action.
“Our vehicles are shared and at this time it is uncertain when it was placed on the vehicle and by whom,” Jones said in an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
In Burrows’ tweet, she references a “$100k lawsuit,” which was paid out to a black Multnomah County employee. The case concerned Karimah Guion-Pledgure, who successfully claimed that the county had fostered a racially hostile workplace by allowing colleagues to hand up the Blue Lives Matter flag. Guion-Pledgure also alleged that coworkers harassed her after she complained.
Burrows suggests that the city of Portland could face the same type of lawsuit if the incident isn’t handled properly. According to her tweet, dozens of citizens agree with her conclusion that the decal holds racial symbolism and shouldn’t be allowed.
Burrows’ complaint isn’t uncommon, as more activists come forward with similar instances to purport that law enforcement officers harbor racial biases. Of course, the “thin blue line” is just one of many patrol vehicle stickers that have caused a backlash, which includes the American flag and the “In God We Trust” motto.
For now, the police department is looking into the issue and will deal with the perpetrator of the sticker accordingly. However, it surely won’t be the last complaint from the anti-police crowd when it comes to accusing officers of inherent racism.