Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line is a phrase and symbol used by Law Enforcement.  The symbol depicts a thin blue line against a black background used  to commemorate police officers who have died in the line of duty, and to symbolize support with law enforcement.  The symbol's origins are not certain, but it is now common in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and Poland.

The term is thought to have stemmed from the The Thin Red Line a formation of the British in 1854 where the Highlanders stood fast against a Russian Cavalry charge. This action was widely publicized by the press and became one of the most famous of the Crimean War.

The first known use of the phrase "thin blue line" is from a 1911 poem titled "The Thin Blue Line." In the poem it applies to the United States Army, referring to the Thin Red Line, and to the fact that US Army soldiers wore blue uniforms from the eighteenth through the nineteenth century.

It is unknown when the term was first used to refer to police. In the 1950's the phrase was used by the LAPD in the department produced television show of the same name. The phrase is also included in a 1965 government pamphlet by Massachusetts referring to its state police force and in even earlier police reports by the NYPD. In the early 1970's the term had spread to police departments across the United States. Use of the term became especially widespread following the release of the 1988 documentary “The Thin Blue Line” about the murder of a Dallas Police officer.

The symbol is simply a thin blue line upon a black background. The blue line represents law enforcement standing between order and social disorder and is primarily used as a mark of respect for fallen policemen.

Thin Blue Line Wooden Flag


Variations have been made which include a horizontal thin blue line across a Union Jack in black and white in the UK or on a black and white American flag in the US. The sale of badges with these emblems have been used to raise money for families of police officers that have died in the line of duty.

 Other  groups have developed their own "thin line" emblems. Most notable in the US, the term Thin Red Line has been adopted by firefighters as an analogy to the Thin Blue Line.


Below are some other “thin line” designations in the US which can be used when customizing a flag for friends or family involved in these branches of service.

United States of America:

  • The Thin Orange Line – Search and Rescue.
  • The Thin Red Line - Firefighters
  • The Thin Silver Line – Corrections Officers
  • The Thin Green Line - Military, Park Rangers and Border Control
  • The Thin Gold Line – Dispatcher
  • The Thin White Line – Emergency Medical Services. The thin white line differs from other thin lines in that the background is blue instead of black, with a white line crossing horizontally through the middle. The EMS also still uses the "Thin Orange Line" which is primarily used by Search and Rescue.
  • The 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.


Written by Lori Brunnen- Content Writter

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