Alex Teach on the beatalex teach on the beat
Life on the mean streets with Officer Alex
Editor's Note: Alex Teach is on holiday this week, so we went to the vault to bring you one of his best past columns.
I was pushing a car down the middle of a busy thoroughfare one afternoon when a passing car slowed to my pace and made the clear indication they had a question to ask. I was sure they were going to offer to help, but that’s probably only because I really needed it.
Instead, a woman who didn’t entirely not resemble Gene Simmons asked “Hey, can you tell me where I could git one of those ‘blue line’ stickers folks put on their cars? I really been wantin’ one. I’m goin’ to Daytona next week.”
I cocked my head slightly as I continued pushing the car (never, ever waste momentum in these circumstances; trust me) and all I could think to say was “Try the police academy. You’d love it. Isn’t this great?” She returned my look of puzzlement, and sped off. (Good luck with her, Florida.)
“Them ‘blue line’ stickers...” They mean something, you know. Most are aware it’s obviously in support of cops and would even correctly guess, if pressed, that it’s about the line between “order and chaos”. Let me take it a bit deeper, though:
The blue itself represents the officer and what it takes to face insurmountable odds. The black background isn’t a coincidence or cool delineator, either; it was designed as a constant reminder of our fallen brother and sister officers.
The line? That’s what cops protect: The barrier between unrest and a civilized society, between order and chaos. Between respect for decency and utter lawlessness.
Put together, they symbolize the camaraderie law enforcement officers all share…the brotherhood.
That’s why when others see it as “something to get out of a ticket”, not only are they shallow and ignorant, they’re wrong. The stickers are generally sold only to law enforcement and to those in their immediate families because they’re the ones in it. They’re the ones who dread certain phone calls or knocks at the door. Support is an FOP sticker. The blue line sticker—that’s for those that live it.
For what it’s worth, it also doesn’t mean the blue lights behind you will suddenly shut off once the sticker’s seen. It means you’re going to get asked about it when the guy or girl in blue is standing next to you with a citation book in hand, and when you say “No, no reason, I just love cops!”, they’ll know the deal and be a little more pissed off than they were seconds ago. You have one because you’re a cop, or are married to one or raised one. And if you ARE married to one or were raised in the same house (or by at least one of the same parents), it’s still not a “get out of court free” pass.
I have one, and it’s put in an obscure place only cops would notice in a black-on-black place. It’s there to let them know that the person driving is 80 percent likely to be carrying a duty weapon, and it starts the conversation.
That’s what it means, and that’s why they’re not handed out like Prozac. There are rip-offs though, and those ARE handed out freely. And who better to capitalize on another’s great idea than the Nozzleheads?
In their inability to resist public support since they do nothing to really piss people off (aside from occasional murder and pornography charges), they came up with “Thin Red Line” stickers. I love it.
The “Thin Red Line” actually refers to a phrase a journalist used to describe a thin line of British soldiers about to defend against a much larger Russian force at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854. Nothing stood between the charging Russian soldiers and the British regiment’s base but a “thin red streak tipped with a line of steel.” So, the firemen managed to turn a phrase about a thinly spread military unit holding firm against attack into something about…putting out fires and posing in calendars, I guess.
This amuses me, but it infuriated the EMS folks who scrambled to get their own sticker too, but cops already had blue, and when they went for orange (like the lines on their trucks), they found bounty hunters had taken orange. (Seriously.) Silver seemed cool, but jailers had taken that one. (Again, seriously.) No one wanted white though, so they also had their color.
Park rangers took green, eventually, and I recently learned that security officers and loss prevention officers took “yellow”. (I believe there is no need for smartass comment here; what more could I say?)
While I respect every profession listed above (what would the world be without Dog the Bounty Hunter and private store dicks at Belk?), I think they didn’t so much dilute a sign of brotherhood as kind of make themselves look like assholes, despite their good intentions.
That’s what the sticker means, folks. So if you have to ask for one—you shouldn’t get it. Cops would really just prefer you smile and wave, or at least, help push that damn car off the road.