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Mother of fallen Connecticut detective rallies behind significance of ‘thin blue line’ flag

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The mother of a Connecticut police detective killed in the line of duty has scolded the Democrat-led city council for voting against flying the “Thin Blue Line” flag in memory of the recently slain officer.

Debbie Garten, mother of Hartford Police Detective Robert “Bobby” Garten, who was killed in the line of duty in September 2023, gave heartfelt testimony at Monday’s Wethersfield City Council meeting about why the “Thin Blue Line” flag is important to those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty.

“I understand that you all have your own views and policies, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you,” Garten said. “Was this issue mishandled? Absolutely.”

Garten said the situation has caused her “great distress.”

Connecticut town refuses to fly “hostile” “Blue Line” flag to honor fallen soldiers

Debbie Garten, mother of fallen Hartford Detective Robert “Bobby” Garten, gave heartfelt testimony at the Wethersfield City Council meeting June 17 about why the Thin Blue Line flag is important to the family of fallen officers. (Wethersfield Town Council)

“I don’t think you understand the intent behind this flag request, which has caused so much distress to me, my family, the residents of Wethersfield, and the entire police community after living in this town for 60 years,” she said. “The impact of this council’s action is immeasurable.”

She said the fallout from the decision was “embarrassing.”

“At a time when the Pelletier family was mourning the death of Private Aaron Pelletier, I believe some of the city council members chose to appear on television and essentially embarrass themselves and the city of Wethersfield,” Garten said.

“It was disheartening to watch the news reports and hear the disrespectful and hurtful comments made by some of our town council members, especially as we continue the week of Private First Class Pelletier’s funeral,” she said.

Connecticut State Police Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier

Connecticut State Police Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident on May 30, was buried on June 5. (Connecticut State Police)

The mother of a fallen officer said she was pleased to see her son’s name inscribed on a Connecticut law enforcement memorial and to see a row of “Thin Blue Line” flags flying in Washington, D.C.

“The Blue Line flag not only honors our fallen officers, but it also supports their families,” Garten said. “The flag shows them that they are not alone in their grief, and that there is a network of people who understand and empathize with our pain.”

She added that the flag symbolizes a “united community” that can come together after losing a fallen hero.

“This flag symbolizes a united community offering comfort, compassion and support to all who have experienced unimaginable loss,” she said. “The thin blue line has a very personal meaning to me. It is a tribute to my son’s service and sacrifice and symbolizes his honor, strength and memory of all that he stood for.”

Connecticut Deputy Sheriff Robert "Bobby" Garten

Hartford Police Department Detective Robert “Bobby” Garten, 34, was killed in September 2023 when his patrol car was struck by another vehicle that police say was fleeing from an unrelated traffic stop. (Hartford City)

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She said the flag “cannot erase the pain or fill the void” left by fallen officers, but it does represent “society’s gratitude” to those who died in the line of duty.

“It is a symbol of community gratitude and respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line for the cause, and it is also a symbol of unity. It reminds us to support and encourage the families of fallen police officers and ensure they are not left behind or forgotten,” Garten said.

Garten has formally asked the town council to fly the “Thin Blue Line” flag for two weeks in May 2025 — one week for National Police Week and the other for a memorial to the Connecticut State Police.

“Your bravery and sacrifice will never be forgotten,” she said. “Rest in peace.”

Her statement came after Wethersfield City Council members rejected a proposal to fly the “Thin Blue Line” flag by a 5-3 vote after a heated debate that some council members described as “white supremacist” and “antagonistic.”

Video: Connecticut town rejects ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag honoring fallen soldiers

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In a recording of a June town council meeting, Democratic City Councilwoman Emily Zambrello can be heard saying the flag is “viewed as antagonistic.”

“The flag, Black Lives Matter protests“Even if you don’t think that way, it’s perceived as adversarial and I don’t think it’s a good thing to put that up, especially without further discussion,” Zambrello said.

In an interview, Wethersfield Mayor Ken Lesser suggested the flag has racist connections.

“This flag is now being used by white supremacist groups and other far-right groups,” Lesser said. “And even a number of police departments around the country and in Connecticut have said, ‘We’re not going to allow the use of this flag.'”

Thin blue line flag

Thin Blue Line USA describes the “Thin Blue Line” flag as a symbol that represents police officers separating order from chaos. (iStock)

Differences of opinion Connecticut State Trooper Private First Class Aaron Pelletier, 34, was killed during a routine traffic stop last month, leaving behind his wife and two young sons.

Republican City Councilman Rich Bailey proposed flying a “thin blue line” flag at City Hall in memory of Pelletier, but drew immediate outrage from the council’s majority Democrats.

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The thin blue line is a symbol representing police officers separating order from chaos. Thin Blue Line USA, A company that sells flag-emblazoned merchandise supporting law enforcement, veterans and first responders.

“The Thin Blue Line flag is flown to show support for our police heroes and serve as a comforting reminder that they are always there to protect us,” the Thin Blue Line USA website states. “For those who walk it, the Thin Blue Line is a reflection of courage, a pledge of brotherhood and a tribute to those who have fallen in the line of duty.”

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