Why is the Levy Park flag at half-staff?

Dear Benny:
What are the criteria for flying the big American flag near College Hall at half-staff? Is the flag lowered when faculty and staff or students die? It seems to be at half-staff on days when flags over municipal and federal buildings are not.
—Stars and Stripes

Dear Stars,
For your answer, we turned to Jeff Hoepfl, an area manager in the Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services, whose area of coverage includes College Hall, which sits on the edge of Blanche Levy Park.

Hoepfl says that the flag has been at half-staff recently in honor of the Philadelphia police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell mandates that the flag be flown at half-staff for 30 days after the death of a police officer killed while on the job.

Unfortunately, Hoepfl says, for that reason, the flag was flown at half-staff for nearly the entirety of the Fall 2008 semester. In the past 16 months, six police officers in the city of Philadelphia have been killed in the line of duty, including Officer John Pawlowski in February of this year.

There are other rules, too.

According to a section on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s website titled, “Procedure for Displaying the National State Colors,” the President of the United States orders that the flag should be flown at half-staff upon the death of any principal figures of the U.S. Government and state governors as a sign of respect.

According to Presidential orders, the flag should also be lowered to half-staff when other officials or foreign dignitaries die.

In the event of the death of a present or former official of Pennsylvania, Governor Rendell (or whoever else holds that office) can proclaim the flag be flown at half-staff. In addition, the flag may also be flown at half-staff on special days that are proclaimed by the Governor. These special days can be about anything the Governor deems appropriate.

Got a question for Benny? Send it via e-mail to current@pobox.upenn.edu or via regular mail to the Current, 200 Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106.

Originally published on April 9, 2009