Police officers provide new flag to homeownersSep 29, 2020 01:45PM ● By Bill Hardesty
SSLPD Patrol Day Shift pose with homeowners and their new flag. (Courtesy of SSLPD)
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
What does a flagpole, a homeowner, and the South Salt Lake Police Department (SSLPD) have in common? They all had an encounter with Justin Scott Smith.
Smith was arrested on Aug. 31 for aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, criminal mischief, and two counts of assault.
Even though the gates were locked, the suspect entered the yard of a residence in the 900 block of West 3300 South. The names and address are not given for their protection. One male homeowner came outside and told Smith to leave. They got into a fight. In an effort to get the attacker off her brother, the female homeowner grabbed the flagpole out of the mount. She started to hit the attacker.
In the altercation, the flagpole broke, and the U.S. flag fell to the ground. The victims were able to retreat into the house, but the attacker kicked in the door. He continued to assault the family until going to the bedroom. Police found him lying on the bed.
Both SSLPD Patrol officers and Homeless Resource Center officers responded.
Fear of arrest
When Sgt. Joe Cummings arrived, he picked up the U.S. flag from the ground and put it on the porch railing.
“The homeowner thought that I was going to arrest her because the flag was on the ground,” Cummings said.
Cummings continued, “I was so touched by her respect and concern for the flag that I knew something had to be done.”
The police on the scene soon realized that the family would not be able to replace the flag.
They all chipped in money. A new flagpole and flag were purchased.
For their Sept. 1 8 a.m. briefing, the Day Shift Patrol Officers and others went to the home to hang the new flag.
“The homeowner was so delighted,” Cummings said. “It is wonderful to see someone who cares so much about our flag.”
If the flag touches the ground
According to U.S. Code Title 4, Chapter 1 Section 8, “The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.”
In the same section it states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
If you were taught that a flag that touches the ground must be destroyed, you were only taught part of the story.
When asked, the American Legion provides this answer on their website, “The Flag Code states that the flag should not touch anything beneath it, including the ground. This is stated to indicate that care should be exercised in the handling of the flag, to protect it from becoming soiled or damaged. You are not required to destroy the flag when this happens. As long as the flag remains suitable for display, even if washing or dry-cleaning is required, you may continue to display the flag as a symbol of our great country.”