As the Crimean War waged on during a cold winter’s day in 1854, a small group of men comprising the red-coated 93rd Regiment stood together shoulder to shoulder. Towards them a force of some 2,500 Russian Calvary. Behind them, a vulnerable British camp. This thin red line of men were all who stood between the two.
“There is no retreat from here, men. You must die where you stand” their commanding officer told them. “Yes sir, if needs be, we will do that” they replied.
As the horse mounted soldiers continued to gallop forward, the thin red line fired off a volley. Followed by another. The cavalry continued toward them, but at just 450 feet away the thin red line did not waiver. They continued to stand shoulder to shoulder, they fired yet another round.
At that last moment, the Russian Calvary retreated. The thin red line charged after the horses before being ordered to stand down.
The 20th century would see this story of the thin red line being adapted for use as a near universally recognized symbol of law enforcement… the Thin Blue Line. The men and women who stand united to separate innocence from tragedy.
I tell this story for those who have not yet heard it, but more importantly, I tell it for those who may have forgotten it.
The Thin Blue Line’s history is a tale of integrity and character, of bravery and of honor. But it would seem this story has been bastardized in the local telling by some, becoming a fable of blind and unyielding loyalty at the cost of all else. It seems a few in Beaver County may have forgotten the line has a mission far grander than merely defending the dots of which it is comprised.
While most who wear the badge of public trust are good and decent and best intentioned, it takes but a few shifted dots for the line to become blurred and its purpose smudged. This is perhaps why the law enforcement officer’s creed speaks of protecting their badge not with cronyism, but with a courage to hold oneself and others accountable for their actions.
With all of the many burdens the Thin Blue Line must bear, this is likely its greatest. Those strong enough to shoulder that weight are heroes.