City spells out policy for flag honor
By ERIC STIRGUS
© St. Petersburg Times,
LARGO -- When Tampa police Officer Lois Marrero was killed earlier this month, city officials respectfully lowered American flags to half-staff at City Hall and police headquarters.
Flags were also lowered at the Military Court of Honor in Largo Central Park.
But City Manager Steven Stanton noticed that not every city facility had lowered its flag. "Some flags were up. Some flags were down," Stanton said. "There was no uniformity to it."
Last week, city officials agreed on a policy that they hope will end such confusion.
If a police officer or firefighter in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee or Pasco counties loses his or her life in the line of duty, the city will lower the American flags at Largo's municipal complex and the Court of Honor. The flags may also be lowered for a city employee who dies in the performance of his or her duties. Current and past elected officials would also be included in this policy.
The policy does not require lowering the American flag at other city facilities.
Lowering an American flag usually requires a city worker to be hoisted in a bucket on a firetruck. With about 50 American flags currently flown at city facilities, city officials said it would be "time consuming" to lower all of the flags.
"From a practical perspective, it would be difficult," said Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert, who drafted the policy.
But officials said they would grant some flexibility to offices not located at Largo's municipal complex if a colleague in that department dies while performing job duties.
"We would probably let them do it for their particular building," Schubert said.
Former City Commissioner Jim Miles, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War, commended the policy.
"I think it's a very fine honor to pay somebody who has given their life or served their city," he said.
Former Navy officer and Largo resident George Arthur lauded city officials for putting together a policy for deceased city leaders, police officers or firefighters. But he questioned what guidelines would be used when a city employee dies while on the job. "Just how far is it going to go?" asked Arthur.
Largo previously followed guidelines put together in 1954 by President Eisenhower that instructed cities to lower their flags to half-staff for the death of a president, vice president, former president, U.S. Supreme Court justice, cabinet member, governor and top military and congressional leaders. The city will still follow those guidelines, officials said.
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