Fight over flag honoring fallen Cleveland officer

I-Team

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – The FOX 8 I TEAM is getting to the bottom of yet another fight over a thin blue line flag meant to honor police officers.

This one hangs along I-90 on the west side as you enter Cleveland. The flag was put up to honor David Fahey, a Cleveland Police officer killed in the line of duty in 2017.

David Fahey

However, the Ohio Department of Transportation says that the flag has to come down.

A highway sign there states that the section of the freeway has been named for officer Fahey, but under the sign, you can see a personalized thin blue line flag with the officer’s badge number.

Fellow officers put it up.

Now that it has to come down, the officer’s mother is speaking out.

“This hurts,” Jackie Ketterer said. “I’m tired of fighting for my son. It’s where Dave took his last breath, and he was somebody and he meant something to people.”

ODOT says it has specific rules about putting anything up along the highways and the agency has received complaints.

One driver wrote, “…the thin blue line flag has developed an overtly racist reputation.”

The family of Fahey points out that he died directing traffic at that spot. He died after getting run down by a hit-and-run driver believed to be drunk or high. That driver, ultimately, went to prison.

Fellow officers put up the flag six months ago. They took it down after the state said it got a complaint, but then they put it back up.

Now, ODOT says more complaints have been made.

A thin blue line flag also recently led to protests in Solon.

The FOX 8 I-Team spoke to Susan Palmer. She sent in an email complaint about the Fahey flag.

“Commemoration of a fallen officer, which, of course, I support, but, as I said in my email, unfortunately, that symbol has been overtaken. Now it has a very negative connotation,” she said.

ODOT says, as a general rule, no one can just put up signs on their own along the highway. You may have noticed a lot of campaign signs lately, but the state says no one should be putting up election signs along highways either.

ODOT spokesperson Amanda McFarland said the agency won’t tear down the flag, but someone must take it down.

“We are going to continue working with the Cleveland Police to have this sign removed,” McFarland said.

Officer Fahey comes from a law enforcement family. His brother, Chris Porter, a Cleveland Police officer, sees this as more than some rule against highway signs.

“Society isn’t allowed to support us, and those who do, have to have swift action against them,” Porter said.

ODOT says it does not have a firm deadline for taking down the flag.

However, the family says, if the flag has to come down, friends and relatives will find another way to keep honoring Fahey.

ODOT says, while the flag must be removed, the large brown highway sign with the officer’s name will still stand.

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