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Chuck Meyer displayed an array of weapons he found during his career with the Baltimore County Police Department — a BB gun, knives, brass knuckles, even a piece of lead wrapped in a bank coin sleeve — items he discovered when he frisked someone he had stopped.

“I’ve got boxes of them,” Meyer said.

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The display was mounted in the trunk of a customized police vehicle the Churchville resident brought to the Boulevard at Box Hill shopping center in Abingdon on Saturday morning as part of an event to honor Harford County law enforcement.

The centerpiece of the event, which happened in the shopping center parking lot off Merchant Boulevard, was the giveaway of 1,000 “Thin Blue Line” flags to members of the community.

The Thin Blue Line flag resembles the American flag with its stars-and-stripes pattern. The colors alternate between black and white, except for one blue stripe running across the middle to represent police.

“I think it’s very important,” Meyer said of the need to honor police. “A lot of them are getting a bum rap today; respect is dying for law enforcement.”

Meyer is a retired Baltimore County police detective and is retired from the Marine Corps. His custom police vehicle has a blue stripe and the slogan “Police lives matter” across the rear. Meyer said he takes the vehicle to car shows, schools and other places where he gives talks on handling armed intruders and active shooters.

His car was one of several at the event customized with pro-police themes. A number of flags with the blue stripe flew in the cold November breeze.

‘Ultimate example of insanity’

Harford Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said the gathering was generated, in part, by the recent news from Montgomery County where “a young man paying respect to men and women in law enforcement, who do an absolutely outstanding job” had his gift “turned away.”

James Shelton, a woodworker who lives in Germantown, and his son delivered wooden flags to their local police and fire stations earlier this month. The fire department flag had a red stripe while the police flag had a blue strip.

Montgomery County officers put a photo of the police flag on social media, which drew a number of negative comments as people decried the flag as racist and divisive. County Executive Marc Elrich, who noted in a statement that “the flag provides a symbol of support to some but it is a symbol of dismissiveness to others,” ordered that Shelton’s flag could not be displayed in any police department public space, according to local media.

Gahler decried that “elected leaders are afraid to stand up and say, ‘What a great job the men and women of law enforcement do to keep our citizens safe.’

“Even police leaders, who think that a small segment of our society might be offended by the concept that police are there to keep us safe, is the ultimate example of insanity, if you ask me,” Gahler continued.

The sheriff thanked the Harford deputies’ union, as well as Giangiordano and Tilley, for their support. Erik Robey, director of legislative and community affairs for the Sheriff’s Office, also recognized elected leaders in attendance, such as County Council President Patrick Vincenti and State’s Attorney Albert Peisinger.

Support for police crucial

Harford resident Heather Benson held her 5-year-old daughter, Hannah, as she spoke with people in the parking lot. Police need the community’s support “now more than ever,” she said.

“We back the blue every day,” said Benson, who said she has “very dear friends” who are in law enforcement.

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Relations between police and citizens around the nation have been fraught with tension in recent years after a number of high-profile cases in which officers killed unarmed people that officers claimed posed a threat to their safety. There have also been high-profile, deadly attacks on police in the same period in communities such as Dallas, Texas, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and even in Harford County.

Senior Deputies Patrick Dailey and Mark Logsdon were fatally shot on Feb. 10, 2016, in the Boulevard at Box Hill. They were the first Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies murdered in the line of duty in more than a century.

“The men and women of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, our allied partners, the state police, all of our federal partners, we have seen it time and time again in our community that they’re ready to stand up and give their lives if necessary,” Gahler told the crowd Saturday.

“And we’ve actually, unfortunately, seen them give their lives when necessary,” he added, referring to the deaths of Dailey and Logsdon nearly four years ago.

The giveaway of the “Thin Blue Line” flags was put on by the Harford County Deputy Sheriff’s Union with support from Walter “Butch” Tilley, president of York Insurance Services Inc., and Tony Giangiordano, a Harford County councilman and owner and president of AAG Insurance. Giangiordano and Tilley sponsored the purchase of the 1,000 flags, according to the sheriff.

The American Dream

Robey, of the sheriff’s office, introduced guest speaker James Tarantin, a Montgomery County resident who traveled up to Abingdon for the event. Tarantin is a motivational speaker, author and businessman — he is the founder and president of of the company Flag & Symbol, which manufactures a slew of flags, banners, promotional items and memorabilia for tourists, according to Tarantin’s website.

Tarantin, who lives in Chevy Chase, talked about immigrating to the U.S. from Israel as a teenager for “the hope of living the American Dream.”

“I came here ... no family, no friends, no money and zero connections,” he said.

Tarantin said he built his businesses and become a millionaire through “self-reliance and self-discipline.” He also is married and has a young son.

“The main lesson of my story is that the true power of America is not measured, I believe, by its economy or military, but by the promise that each and every one of us deserves to experience this beautiful thing called the American Dream,” he said.

Tarantin stressed that “our law enforcement personnel lives by this promise, I believe.”

Tilley said the concept of the thin blue line is inspired by the “thin red line.” The latter symbolizes how a British infantry regiment, wearing their red uniforms, held off a Russian cavalry charge during the Crimean War in 1854.

“Law enforcement keeps the chaos away, in order for there to be peaceful commerce, for our employees to go home in a safe environment, and for our customers to be safe so that they can actually purchase our goods and services,” Tilley said.

Giangiordano said “it’s really imperative” for elected officials to support law enforcement as “they put themselves in harm’s way every day.”

“Show these flags proudly and I hope everybody gets one and gives one to somebody,” he said.

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Aaron Penman, vice president of the deputies’ union, said his organization represents about 300 law enforcement deputies.

“On behalf of them, I thank you all for coming out and supporting law enforcement, honoring those that have lost their lives protecting us,” said Penman, who led the crowd in a moment of silence for the officers around the country who have died in the line of duty this year.

Benson said she plans to fly her blue line flag at home, and she hopes her daughter “will grow up to respect and support law enforcement, just as I did as a child and into adulthood.

“I want her to know that they’re our friends, not our enemies,” Benson said.

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