Police officers all over the country are flying a flag or wearing patches of the following flag.

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  • Isn't this considered desecration of the flag under 18 U.S. Code § 700?
  • It is a US FLAG with a few colors changed. Therefore it is DESECRATION. Regardless of opinions – user30607 Mar 22 at 4:40
  • @user30607 your opinion is duly noted. – phoog Mar 22 at 16:33

That statute, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in US v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310, does not define desecration. Case law on point is not forthcoming since there is no enforceable law on the topic and as long as the First Amendment holds, we can't test laws prohibiting flag desecration. The general meaning of the word is to treat disrespectfully, irreverently, or profanely, and that clearly is not the case in the present usage. A different statute yet to be written might outlaw "any modifications of the flag" (and would suffer the same fate as 18 USC 700), which could be technically violated in the application of a thin blue line to a flag.

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  • "disrespectfully, irreverently, or profanely" is opinion based, and to some people it may be disrespectful. As for example, the confederate flag being considered a racist flag. – Digital fire Apr 3 '19 at 19:04
  • This would be resolved by reference to community standards, and the I know it when I see it test. – user6726 Apr 3 '19 at 19:13
  • This answer isn't true, because the law does not apply to flags other than the US flag. – Putvi Apr 3 '19 at 21:14
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    @Putvi The statute, having been found unconstitutional, isn't really a law any longer, or could be said not to apply to anything. It is not enforceable under any circumstances at all, so it is not meaningful to debate when it applies. It never does. – David Siegel Apr 3 '19 at 22:03
  • Yeah, you are right, I just meant the point is moot even if the law was in effect, because its not a US flag. – Putvi Apr 3 '19 at 22:16

The law you mentioned on flags covers the normal US flag. It has nothing to do with the flag made up by police officers.

18 U.S. Code § 700. Desecration of the flag of the United States; penalties. Whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

The flag used by police officers and the US flag are different things, even though the one used by the police is clearly based on the US flag. The law, therefore, does not apply to the one used by police.

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    It is all moot but it is not a different flag it is a very slightly modified U.S. flag. – George White Nov 5 '19 at 4:14
  • The process of substituting colors in a flag could easily be considered defacing it. – phoog Nov 5 '19 at 14:45

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