Vice chair of Sartell school board lobbied mayor to remove pro-police imagery

Newly released emails show that the vice chair of the Sartell school board tried to shame the mayor for his support of the thin blue line symbol.

Left: Jason Nies/Sartell Public Schools; Background: Sartell Police Department/Facebook

The vice chair of the school board in Sartell, Minnesota, lobbied the mayor as part of a successful effort to remove a pro-police logo from the city’s police vehicles.

“Shame on you and the city,” Vice Chair Jason Nies wrote to Mayor Ryan Fitzthum, expressing anger that Sartell allowed its police to sport the “thin blue line” symbol. Alpha News obtained copies of Nies’s emails to the mayor by way of a data request. The emails were sent as part of a conversation carried on sporadically from June 2020 through May 2021. Sartell police discontinued use of the symbol in mid-September.

“As a long time resident of Sartell I am disappointed that the removal of the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag has not occurred,” Nies informed the mayor in April. “It is easy to see that the views of our white citizens carries much more weight than out [sic] black and brown community.”

“Its [sic] time to get rid of this symbol on tax payer funded police vehicles!” he said, responding to his own email and linking to an article from the left-wing Star Tribune that suggests the thin blue line symbol is racist.

The school board vice chair not only took issue with the thin blue line decal on police cars, he also demanded that it be removed from the city’s public safety facility, which opened its doors over the winter.

“If you truly want to create a welcoming community for all I ask you to reconsider the use of this flag in the new [building] and also on the cities [sic] patrol vehicles,” said Nies.

Email records show that Fitzthum defended his city’s use of the thin blue line imagery.

“The origin of the Thin Blue Line flag dates back to the early 1900’s when the American Army marched together in blue uniforms, creating a thin blue line. Later, in the 1950’s, the blue line was adopted by law enforcement professionals … The flag’s purpose is not to stand in opposition to Black Lives Matter (or any other cause),” he said, responding to an email from Nies’s son, who initiated the exchange.

Sartell removed the thin blue line logo from its police vehicles last month, honoring Nies’s request, which was also echoed by the ACLU and a pocket of the local community. About 600 people signed a petition to remove the symbol circulated by Hannah Kosloski, a 22-year-old “nonbinary” activist. A more successful petition in support of the symbol garnered over 2,100 signatures.

In response to the city’s decision, community members put thin blue tape around many of the telephone poles and road signs in Sartell over the weekend of Sept. 10-12 as a public display of their support for police officers.

Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes announced shortly after that his department is working on “a new decal design to represent the reason we had the blue line flag on our squad to begin with,” which was to “remember the officers that have given their lives in the line of duty.”

Alpha News reached out to Nies for comment but did not receive a response.


Kyle Hooten

Kyle Hooten is Managing Editor of Alpha News. His coverage of Minneapolis has been featured on television shows like Tucker Carlson Tonight and in print media outlets like the Wall Street Journal.