Laguna Beach officials have decided to keep the American flag-style lettering on the city’s police cars after initial controversy.
The City Council on Tuesday, April 16, debated the earlier decision to paint the Laguna Beach Police Department’s 11 squad cars with a patriotic font alluding to the star-spangled banner.
KABC reported that the council voted 4-1 in favor of keeping the red-white-and-blue lettering on the police cars.
The council meeting was attended by hundreds of residents, with KABC reporting that an “overwhelming majority” expressed their approval of the patriotic design.
A group of people reportedly sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the meeting.
‘Very Narrow Decision’
Before the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow told the Los Angeles Times the council was merely facing “a very narrow decision” about the brightness of the colors, but that the issue had devolved into a broader national conversation about patriotism.
The proposed graphic the council approved in February was reportedly a more muted version of the design that now appears on the cars.
“Clearly, the way it looks on the car is not what anyone expected it to look like,” Dicterow told the Times. “I think it’s reasonable that we’re going to look at it again so that whatever we (approve) is exactly what we put on the car.”
He said he has received hundreds of emails from people around the country, mostly in support of keeping the flag designs on the car.
The decision came after the initial decision to apply the flag-themed design drew strong opinions from the public.
The department initially took the decision to paint its fleet of 11 squad cars in February but after the emergence of critical voices, they agreed to reconsider, reported the LA Times.
Some residents are praising the image as patriotic. Others are panning it as too aggressive. https://t.co/CPxMenSjqf
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) April 13, 2019
“Unfortunately this has devolved to a debate about what the flag means,” Laguna Beach Councilman Steve Dicterow told “Fox & Friends” Monday.
“There are people in Laguna Beach … saying that the flag is hostile, it’s intimidating, it’s threatening, and that it’s a symbol of racism,” he continued.
“People are screaming that the American flag on a police car is somehow or another … hurting people’s feelings who might be immigrants or visitors,” Councilman Peter Blake told the LA Times. “People are actually ridiculous enough to bring up comments about our cop cars having American flags on them.”
Artist Carrie Woodburn said during a March 19 council meeting that the boldness of the design was shocking.
“We have such an amazing community of artists here, and I thought the aesthetic didn’t really represent our community,” Woodburn said. “It feels very aggressive.”
Attorney Jennifer Welsh Zeiter, however, questioned the patriotism of anyone who objected to the flags on the car.
— KTLA (@KTLA) April 13, 2019
“They are so filled with hatred toward this … office of the president of the United States and the current occupant of that office, that they cannot see through their current biases to realize that a police vehicle with the American flag is the ultimate American expression,” she said.
Laguna Beach Police Cpl. Ryan Hotchkiss, who is the president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Association, said he received only positive feedback about the graphic.
Laguna Beach Police Go Back To Black And White Patrol Cars https://t.co/cHy3B4oy3P
— Laguna Beach Patch (@LagunaBchPatch) February 23, 2019
“Every time I came to a stop sign, every time I came to a red light, somebody is telling me the car looks great. Every one of our members that drives the car loves it, and we look forward to keeping them the way they are,” Hotchkiss said at the March meeting.
City Manager John Pietig said that even if the logo changes, the color of the cars will remain black and white. According to the Police Chief Laura Farinella, the color will be retained because it’s more visible and differentiates police cars from other security vehicles.
— Laguna Beach Indy (@lagunabeachindy) February 22, 2019
Councilman Peter Blake told “Fox & Friends First” the opponents are left-wing extremists, “local hippies leftover from … 1970.”
“The fact that we have the flag. The fact that we have a black and white car, and the fact that we were able to make a decision in a relatively short amount of time to get our police back on the road in a car that appears to be aggressive enough to deter crime is a miracle,” Blake said.
Laguna Beach has 6.5 million visitors every year and over the years the police have complained that driving white cars makes it difficult for them to stand out, reported the Laguna Beach Indy.
“Having 6.5 million visitors, we want to stand out, we want to be recognizable when they flag us down and we’re at a scene,” Police Chief Laura Farinella told the Laguna Beach Indy.
The Laguna Beach Police Department is proud to unveil our new design for our police units coming Spring 2019! New look, same world class service.
Posted by Laguna Beach Police Department on Wednesday, February 20, 2019
The Associated Press and Epoch Times reporter Venus Upadhayaya contributed to this report.