By Rachel Menitoff

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — A “Thin Blue Line” flag donated to the Montgomery County Police Department has stirred up a political back-and-forth after County Executive Marc Elrich told the department it could not display the flag because it’s divisive.

The wooden flag was donated by local craftsman James Shelton and his son Forrest in honor of National First Responders Day.

A photo of the donation posted online drew harsh criticism, with several people blasting the police department for accepting the flag, which the commenters said resembled the “Blue Lives Matter” symbol, which some say is an affront to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

That prompted Elrich to demand the flag’s removal.

Two other Maryland police officials, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler spoke about the controversy on “Fox and Friends” Monday.

“Our community shows their respect of law enforcement on a daily basis and we will never be afraid to show our thanks!” the Harford County Sheriff’s Office wrote on its Facebook page Monday afternoon.

Over the weekend, Gov. Larry Hogan said he was offended and disgusted by the flag’s removal and called on Elrich to reverse the “terrible decision.”

“A local elected official prohibiting police from displaying a flag given to them by a grateful child is disgraceful,” Hogan wrote on Twitter Sunday.

The governor noted similar flags hang inside the Government House.

In a statement on social media Friday, Elrich said the flag provides a symbol of support to some but is a symbol of dismissiveness to others.

“Because it is divisive, the flag will not be posted at the 5th District nor in any public space within the Police Department,” Elrich said in a post on the police department’s Twitter page.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Elrich reiterated those comments.

“My concern is that the flag if it’s interpreted by people as a Blue Lives Matter flag, it’s something that further distrust and unrest in the community,” he said.

Elrich told reporters Hogan is entitled to his opinion but he disagrees.

As for what will happen to the flag, some of the local police unions have offered to accept it on the department’s behalf.

Rachel Menitoff

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