ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The chief judge of Maryland District Courts has banned court employees from wearing face masks with the law enforcement symbol of the "thin blue line."
News outlets report that Chief Judge John P. Morrissey sent an email ordering staff to cease wearing the masks. His order Wednesday applies to bailiffs, commissioners, constables, clerks, staff and judges across the 34 District Court sites statewide, but does not apply to courthouse visitors. A spokeswoman for the judiciary said no similar mandate has been given to staff at the Circuit Courts, which handle felonies.
The "thin blue line," a reference to the blue of police uniforms, is a symbol worn to show support for law enforcement, but recently it has become politically charged and used by counterprotesters at rallies for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Morrissey wrote that the court had been made aware of "an issue of perceived bias" and that staff had been wearing masks and other items of clothing with the "thin blue line."
Morrissey took action at the request of Maryland Public Defender Paul DeWolfe, who asked judges in a letter Tuesday to ban the symbols in courthouses.
"We certainly understand what the judge is trying to accomplish here," said Clyde Boatwright, president of the statewide Fraternal Order of Police. "But the concern we would have is, is this type of restriction for all advocacy groups?"
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