During an at-times testy meeting Tuesday night, the Costa Mesa City Council turned down a councilman’s proposal to fly a “Thin Blue Line” flag at City Hall but moved ahead with alternative ideas to honor the work of Costa Mesa’s police force.
Councilman Allan Mansoor originally called for raising “Blue Lives Matter” and “In God We Trust” flags outside City Hall.
The Blue Lives Matter flag is a version of the American flag including black stripes with a blue stripe running through the middle.
The Thin Blue Line flag is a black flag with a blue line running through the center.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s discussion, Mansoor said he was withdrawing his call for the Blue Lives Matter flag because of concerns about altering the American flag. Instead, he proposed the Thin Blue Line flag.
"[Police officers’] lives have value and there’s no reason we as a city should be afraid to make that statement publicly,” Mansoor said. “‘In God We Trust’ is our national motto, so I see no reason not to fly it over City Hall unless we no longer believe it to be a true statement.”
Other council members expressed preferences for alternative displays of support for the city’s police.
Councilwoman Sandy Genis suggested using blue lights around parts of the city.
Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens suggested the city work with police officers to come up with something that suits them. The commemoration would still take place around Peace Officers Memorial Day in May or National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day in January, as stated in the staff report for Mansoor’s original proposal.
“I think we really need to hear from the folks that we’re honoring as to what would be meaningful and appropriate for them,” Stephens said.
Stephens objected to the idea of flying an “In God We Trust” flag, noting that the phrase is displayed above the council dais. The council also recognizes a moment of solemn expression at the beginning of each meeting.
“We have a whole broad range of people that worship in different ways in the city,” Stephens said. “The beauty of that is they can do that under the First Amendment.”
Councilman Manuel Chavez said he thought there are better ways to support the police without flying the Thin Blue Line flag.
“For whatever reason, our histories, background … kind of led me and those of my heritage to kind of be fearful of the police,” Chavez said.
“I’ve seen our police officers go above and beyond to rectify the prior fear I’ve had,” he added. “That, to me, is remarkable.”
Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds asked Police Chief Rob Sharpnack to describe the department’s commitment to community-based policing.
“We want the community to feel no matter who they are, where they live, what their circumstances are, that they, when they come and call the police ... are going to be treated with dignity and respect,” Sharpnack said.
Genis originally seconded Mansoor’s motion to fly the Thin Blue Line and “In God We Trust” flags, which would have led to a vote. But then she withdrew her second.
“It really bothers me that the symbol that should be a symbol of pride for a certain group is a symbol that some people would disdain ... that is somehow considered racist or a sign of fear,” Genis said.
Mansoor tried a substitute motion, this time to fly only the U.S., California, POW-MIA and Costa Mesa city flags. Genis seconded the motion, but it failed on a 5-2 vote, with only Mansoor and Genis supporting it.
Stephens’ proposal to find alternative ways to support the police won approval, 6-1, with Mansoor dissenting.
Mansoor’s call for flags for police and “In God We Trust” was a response to the council’s May decision — in which Mansoor cast the lone dissenting vote — to fly a rainbow flag in honor of LGBT Pride Month in June. The rainbow flag is a symbol of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
On Tuesday night, Mansoor reiterated his concern that the rainbow flag to some could mean respect for everyone while to others “it may mean intolerance or hostility to anyone who morally or due to religious conviction does not support some of the things in the LGBTQ agenda.” He added that he had received advice from some attorneys who said flying the rainbow flag could subject the city to legal challenges.