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All About the 33 Times Polis Has Ordered Flags to Be Lowered

All About the 33 Times Polis Has Ordered Flags to Be Lowered
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Flags in Colorado will fly at half-staff until sunset today, April 6 — and that's nothing new. Rather, it's a depressing and saddening sign of the times.

Governor Jared Polis has already ordered flags to be lowered nine times in 2021, adding up to more than a month of symbolic mourning in just over three months. He's issued such orders a total of 33 times since taking over as the state's most powerful elected leader. Sworn into office on January 8, 2019, Polis is currently serving his 819th day in office. For more than 100 of those days, flags have only been run halfway up the flagpole.

Announcements about lowering flags come so often, and with such a variety of durations (usually two to four days, but sometimes longer), that Colorado hosts a flag-status web page, complete with a sign-up option so that Colorado residents can learn whether their own flags should be at half-staff.

Such an online tool makes sense given how often flag-lowering orders are announced — and sometimes overlap. It would be natural to assume that flags remain lowered in the wake of the March 22 shooting at a Boulder King Soopers. As noted by Polis spokesperson Shelby Wieman, "When lowering flags to honor the victims of the shooting in Boulder, the governor chose to lower for ten days, one day for each of the victims who lost their lives." But that tribute was just ending when President Joe Biden ordered flags to be lowered from April 2 to April 6 nationwide following the latest attack on the U.S. Capitol, which killed a police officer.

Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, seem like polar opposites in most respects, but they share one thing in common — a fondness for flag-lowering proclamations. Of the 33 times flags have been lowered since Polis became governor, seventeen, or just over half, were mandated by the currently serving president, and no wonder: Lowering flags not only makes the president seem sympathetic, but it can also provide political cover in ticklish situations. For example, gun-loving Trump ordered flags to be lowered for mass shootings in Texas and Ohio back in 2019, and he did so as well after the passings of U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, a notable legislative enemy, and former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, part of the panel's liberal bloc that Trump had dedicated himself to dismantling.

The United States has codified its flag-lowering rules, with Colorado following suit. "The Governor follows the Colorado and U.S. flag codes when ordering flags to fly at half-staff," Wieman explains. "For example, for line-of-duty deaths, flags are lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset on the day of the service. The governor has the discretion to order the Colorado flag lowered when deemed appropriate in response to a specific incident, such as a statewide or national tragedy."

These are the basic rules:

Flying the flag at half-staff

1. The Governor of the State of Colorado may order the United States flag and the Colorado State flag lowered at federal and state facilities, pursuant to the enactment of H.R. 692 as of June 29, 2007, for any Colorado service member killed while serving on active duty. The policy of Governor Jared Polis is to order the United States and Colorado flags lowered on the day of the service member’s funeral, and for the flags to remain lowered for the duration of the day.
2. The Governor may order the Colorado flag lowered following a Presidential order or request to lower the United States flag. This typically occurs following the death of a present or former official of the federal government, a principal figure, on marked occasions such as Memorial Day, or following a national tragedy.
3. The Governor may order the United States flag and Colorado flag lowered to honor the death of any present or former official of state government, on the day of the official’s funeral.
4. The Governor may order the Colorado flag lowered when deemed appropriate in response to a specific incident, such as a statewide or national tragedy or when a law enforcement officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty. The Governor also may delegate authority to local officials to lower flags within their jurisdiction. The policy of Governor Jared Polis is to order the United States and Colorado flags lowered on the day of the law enforcement officer or firefighter’s funeral, and for the flags to remain lowered for the duration of the day.

Obligatory holidays on which the flag is lowered to half-staff

Memorial Day (until noon)
September 11th
Pearl Harbor Day (December 7th)

Regulations on displaying the flag

1. The United States flag should always be displayed on the right (from the flag) to any state flag, or if in a procession, always first.
2. No flag shall be raised above that of the United States flag, nor to its right (the flag’s right). The Colorado State flag must remain below the United States flag, and those of other nations must be displayed equally to the United States flag during peacetime. Foreign flags should be displayed to the left of both the United States flag and Colorado State flag.
3. The United States flag should always be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a large number of flags of states or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.

Modification of rules and customs by Governor

Any rule or custom pertaining to the display of the flag of the State of Colorado, set forth herein, may be altered, modified, or repealed, or additional rules with respect thereto may be prescribed, by the Governor of the State of Colorado, whenever he deems it to be appropriate or desirable; and any such alteration or additional rule shall be set forth in a proclamation.

Here, in descending order, are the times Polis has ordered flags lowered since he became governor, along with links providing more information about each item. Those mandated by presidential proclamation are marked with an asterisk.

33. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Victims of the Attack at the United States Capitol*
FRIDAY, APRIL 2, 2021

32. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Passing of Chief Chester Riley
THURSDAY, MARCH 25, 2021

31. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Victims of Boulder Shooting*
TUESDAY, MARCH 23, 2021

30. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Victims of the Shooting in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area*
THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 2021

29. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor 500,000 Lost to COVID-19*
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2021

28. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Passing of Former Representative Val Vigil
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2021

27. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Passing of FBI Agent Laura Schwartzenberger
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2021

26. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Passing of Westminster Fire Department Captain David Sagel
THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 2021

25. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor U.S. Capitol Police Officers*
MONDAY, JANUARY 11, 2021

24. Gov. Polis Orders Flags to Half Staff in Recognition of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day*
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2020

23. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Commerce City Police Officer Curt Holland
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2020

22. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Patriot Day, Commemorate 9/11 Anniversary*
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2020

21. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Half Staff on Memorial Day*
FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020

20. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Half Staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day*
WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 2020

19. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Firefighter Dan Moran
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2020

18. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor South Metro Fire Assistant Chief Troy Jackson
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2019

17. Gov. Polis Will Lower Flags on Friday to Honor Sergeant Joshua Voth, Representative Kimmi Lewis, and Firefighter Ken Jones
MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2019

16. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Half Staff on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day*
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2019

15. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Representative Elijah E. Cummings*
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2019

14. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Former Colorado Legislator Leo Lucero
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2019

13. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Gunnery Sergeant Koppenhafer
THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2019

12. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor the Victims of the Tragic Shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio
SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 2019

11. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Sergeant Major James Sartor
THURSDAY, JULY 25, 2019

10. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens*
WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 2019

9. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Former Colorado Legislator Tilman Bishop
FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2019

8. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Colorado State Patrol Trooper (William Moden) Killed in the Line of Duty
SATURDAY, JUNE 15, 2019

7. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor the Victims of the Virginia Beach Tragedy*
SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 2019

6. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Memorial Day*
TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2019

5. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Peace Officers Memorial Day*
TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2019

4. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Former Colorado Legislator Don Sandoval
TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2019

3. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Sergeant First Class Will Lindsay
TUESDAY, APRIL 2, 2019

2. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Colorado State Patrol Corporal Killed in the Line of Duty
TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2019

1. Gov. Polis Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Former U.S. Representative John Dingell*
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2019

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