Peru removes ‘Back the Blue’ flags after questions of code violations

Mayor Kolowski installed the flags to support officers; ‘It was my call’

If you drove through Peru on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning you may have noticed the addition of many “Back the Blue”-themed American Flags displayed around City Hall and many other areas of town.

These flags were put up on Friday and removed on Saturday after some questions about their presence. Mayor Ken Kolowski took responsibility for the display of the flags and said they were meant as a surprise to support the police.

“I don’t want to break rules, it’s important to me and the administration not to break rules,” Kolowski said. “I want people to follow the rules, so we have to follow the rules also.”

Kolowski indicated putting up the flags may be questioned as a possible code violation. He didn’t elaborate what code the city may be violating, but said he took them down at the thought of the city violating any code.

Kolowski planned to have the flags on display throughout National Police Week to support law enforcement officers.

“I put those up for Police Appreciation Week only and I wanted to make it more of a surprise for the officers and to everyone as a positive thing,” Kolowski said. “I didn’t really go through proper appropriations to do it.”

Kolowski said it was brought to his attention the flags could have been a possible code violation he was unaware of at the time.

Kolowski said once this was brought to his attention the flags were immediately taken down.

“It was my responsibility and it was my call,” Kolowski said. “It was meant with good intentions of surprising the community and surprising the police. The mistake is all on me. Next year we will do something a lot better.”

Kolowski mentioned the short amount of time from his swearing in to National Police Week also played a part in his decision to display the flags.

“I only had a little bit of time to pull this together and I said ‘I’ve got to do something; I’ve got to make a splash,’” Kolowski said. “I just went too fast.”

On Monday, the City Council proclaimed May 9-15 is National Police Week and May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day. This resolution was passed to give thanks to those in law enforcement.

Kolowski said he doesn’t have plans to put the flags on display at any time and wants to do something different next year to commemorate the week-long celebration.

Activists across the country have questioned thin blue line flags as making political statements, or countering racial justice movements. According to the Boston Globe, “thin blue line” flags were removed in July 2020 from Hingham, Mass. fire trucks, for example, after days of controversy whether the flags simply salute police officers or have a more divisive political message.

Earlier Monday, Kolowski helped coordinate students at Northview Elementary presenting thank you letters to Peru police officers. Peru police officers and dispatch also will be able to receive free meals at Wendy’s for the week as well.

Jayce Eustice

Covering local government, breaking news and whatever is thrown at me for the La Salle News Tribune