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Mother of fallen Connecticut detective admonishes town council after refusal to fly 'antagonistic' flag

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A mother of a fallen Connecticut detective admonished a Democrat-led town council after it voted against flying the “thin blue line” flag in honor of a recently slain trooper.

Debbie Garten, the mother of Hartford police Det. Robert “Bobby” Garten, who was killed in the line of duty in September 2023, shared a heartfelt testimony at the Wethersfield town council meeting on Monday on why the “thin blue line” flag matters to those who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.

“I understand that you may have your own viewpoints and policies, but I want to share a few of my thoughts with you,” Garten said. “Was this issue mishandled? Without a doubt.”

Garten said the situation has caused her a “world of hurt.”


Debbie Garten,

“I feel you all have missed the point of this flag request, which has caused a world of hurt to me as a lifelong resident of this town for 60 years, my family, residents of Wethersfield and the law enforcement community at large,” she said. “The impact of this council’s action is immeasurable.”

She said that the fallout after the decision was “an embarrassment.”

When the Pelletier family was mourning the loss of Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, some council members chose to appear on television and, in essence, I feel, embarrassed themselves and the town of Wethersfield,” Garten said.

“It was disheartening to witness the news coverage and hear the disrespectful and hurtful remarks made by some town council members, especially as the week and funeral for First Class Pelletier was going on,” she said.

Connecticut State Police First Class Trooper Aaron Pelletier

The mother of the fallen officer said that she appreciated seeing the unveiling of her son’s name on the Connecticut Law Enforcement Memorial and seeing a row of “thin blue line” flags flying in Washington, D.C.

“Beyond honoring fallen officers, the blue line flag supports families,” Garten said. “It shows that they are not alone in their grief, and that there is a network of individuals who understand and empathize with our pain.”

She added that the flag symbolizes a “united community” that can band together after experiencing the loss of a fallen hero. 

“This flag symbolizes a united community that offers comfort, compassion, and assistance to all those who have experienced this unimaginable loss,” she said. “The thin blue line holds a deeply personal meaning for me. It’s a tribute to my son’s service and sacrifice, it symbolizes his honor, his strength, and his remembrance of all he stood for.”

Fallen Connecticut Deputy Robert "Bobby" Garten


She said, in part, that while the flag “cannot erase the pain or fill the void” left behind by a fallen officer, it does represent “society’s gratitude” toward those who have died in the line of duty.

“It represents society’s gratitude, respect for the men and women who have put their lives on the line for the greater good, and it symbolizes solidarity; reminding us to support and uplift the families of fallen officers and to ensure that they are not left behind or forgotten,” Garten said.

Garten formally requested that the town council raise the “thin blue line” flag for two weeks in May 2025 – one week for the National Police Week and one week for the Connecticut Police Memorial ceremony.

“May your bravery and sacrifice never be forgotten,” she said. “Rest in peace.”

Her statement came after members of the Wethersfield Town Council turned down a bid to fly the “thin blue line” flag in a 5-3 vote after a spirited debate where some described them as “white supremacist” and “antagonistic.”



In a recording of the town council meeting in June, Democratic Councilmember Emily Zambrello is heard saying that the flag was “viewed as antagonistic.”

“That flag was either created or at least became prevalent in direct response to the Black Lives Matter protests,” Zambrello said. “It’s viewed as antagonistic even if you don’t see it that way and I don’t think that’s a good flag to fly, especially not without further discussion.”

In an interview, Wethersfield Mayor Ken Lesser suggested that the flag had racist ties.

“It is now being used by white supremacist groups and other far-right types of groups,” Lesser said. “And even many police departments around the country and in Connecticut have said that ‘we don’t authorize to use that flag’.”

Thin Blue Line Flag

The disagreement began after Connecticut State Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, 34, was killed in a routine traffic stop last month – leaving behind a wife and two young boys.

Republican Council Member Rich Bailey suggested the town raise the “thin blue line” flag over town hall in honor of Pelletier’s sacrifice – immediately commanding outrage from the majority Democrats on the council.

The thin blue line is a symbol that represents the police officers who separate order from chaos, according to Thin Blue Line USA, a company that sells merchandise featuring the flag supporting law enforcement, veterans and first responders.

“The thin blue line flag is flown to show support for our heroes in law enforcement and serves as a consoling reminder they will always be there to protect us,” the Thin Blue Line USA website reads. “For those who walk it, the thin blue line is a reflection of courage, a pledge of brotherhood and a tribute to those who have fallen in the line of duty.”

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