Standing united for Cpl. Ballard

May 4, 2017

Flags across Delaware flew at half staff this week in honor of Delaware State Police Cpl. Stephen Ballard, killed on duty while making a routine stop. Ballard's death serves as a harsh reminder of our increasingly gun-filled society and, consequently, the increasingly dangerous job performed by law officers.

Flying of flags at half staff, like tolling church bells, brings awareness of momentous events that warrant attention. This symbolic gesture focuses our consciousness, no matter how briefly, on something outside the separative busyness of our individual lives. It offers a moment of reflection and unity so necessary for healthy communities - as large as nations or as small as families.

A Cape Gazette reader alerted us to one wrinkle in this honoring of Cpl. Ballard's sacrifice. She asked why, when across Delaware flags were flying half staff at schools and other public places, the flags at some U.S. Post Offices were still flying high. Lewes Mayor Ted Becker called the Lewes Post Office and was informed that no order had come through the ranks. When Gov. John Carney ordered flags to fly at half staff, the communication may not have made it to the authorities who send out such directives to federal installations. Efforts were being made as of this writing to rectify that.

One patron reportedly took action into her own hands at Nassau Post Office. Given the same information about the flags, she marched outside and lowered them herself.

Early American philosopher and essayist Henry David Thoreau, in a piece focused on civil disobedience, wisely counseled: "Question authority." Shooting police officers clearly is not what Thoreau meant. But questioning official inaction, or in this case taking action that has not been ordered, can preserve and enhance unity and harmony in communities and strengthen the ties that bind.

Fixing this flag-lowering glitch is an easy problem to address. Bringing back Cpl. Ballard is impossible. But getting us together in this gesture of honoring those who sacrifice for all of us not only is the right thing to do for Cpl. Ballard and his family, but further reminds us of how important it is to stand united against evil.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.