In a move that has ignited a firestorm of controversy, the predominantly Democratic Wethersfield Town Council in Connecticut has refused to fly the “thin blue line” flag to honor a fallen state trooper. The decision, which has been widely criticized, came in the wake of the tragic death of Connecticut State Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, who was killed in the line of duty last week.

Council Member Rich Bailey (R) proposed raising the “thin blue line” flag at town hall to pay tribute to Trooper Pelletier, 34, who was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver during a traffic stop. However, the proposal was shot down in a contentious council meeting, with a vote of three in favor, five against, and one abstention. The council consists of six Democrats and three Republicans.

Bailey, visibly frustrated, spoke to WTNH News 8, emphasizing the symbolic importance of the flag for those who serve and protect. “All we are doing is trying to respect a fallen police officer,” Bailey asserted. “In my home, [the ‘thin blue line’ flag] means police, and they protect us, and they are our first line of defense. They always are, and they’re always here, and they’re always for us.”

The Democratic council members argued that the flag has taken on a negative connotation in recent years. Council Member Emily Zambrello (D) voiced her opposition, stating, “It represents racism and antagonism to many, many people. If you don’t personally believe that, and you fly it at your own house and you think it means something to you that is much more positive — it’s just not how many people feel about it. It’s not appropriate to raise it over our town hall, especially when our flag policy prohibits us from doing anything associated with hate.”

Wethersfield Mayor Ken Lesser, who also voted against the proposal, suggested an alternative. He proposed flying the first responders’ flag, which honors all first responders, including police, fire, and emergency management personnel. “The ‘blue line’ flag was designed for police officers and it goes back over 100 years, but now it has been used by white supremacists and many police groups have disavowed that flag,” Lesser explained.

Bailey, a retired fire chief with deep ties to law enforcement, staunchly rejected the first responders’ flag as a substitute. His father was a police officer, and Bailey felt strongly that the “thin blue line” flag specifically honored the sacrifices made by law enforcement officers like Trooper Pelletier.

The council’s decision has been met with significant backlash from the community and beyond. Many see the refusal to fly the “thin blue line” flag as a blatant disrespect to law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day.

Trooper Aaron Pelletier was laid to rest on Wednesday, with thousands attending his funeral service to pay their respects. His widow, Dominique, delivered a poignant and tearful tribute to her late husband. “To my honey, you weren’t just my husband. You were my home. You were my heart. You were my safe place and my provider. My best friend. My secret keeper. My favorite gossiper,” she said. “The light in our smiles will be forever dimmed and the thought of this world without that laugh seems unimaginable but has already become real. I promise to keep you alive in our home, in our heart, and in our boys’ memories forever. I love you, and I miss you.”

The Wethersfield Town Council’s refusal to honor Trooper Pelletier with the “thin blue line” flag has highlighted the growing tension over how communities should show respect and support for law enforcement. As debates over symbolism and public perception continue, many believe it’s crucial to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by officers like Trooper Pelletier, who dedicated their lives to protecting others.