In Laguna Beach, California, an artists’ community, some residents have expressed hostility toward Laguna Beach police cars that have the word “police” on their doors painted with the American flag.
As The Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday, the Laguna Beach Police Department painted the flag on seven of the 11 police cars in their fleet. In February, the Laguna Beach city council decided to paint the flag on the doors of the Ford Explorers.
But at the March 19 city council meeting, as the Times reports, some community members protested against featuring the flag; Carrie Woodburn, a local artist, stated it was “shocking to see the boldness of the design,” adding, “We have such an amazing community of artists here, and I thought the aesthetic didn’t really represent our community. It feels very aggressive.” Woodburn was countered by attorney Jennifer Welsh Zeiter, who stated that the cars were “exceptional,” adding, “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.” Laguna Beach Police Cpl. Ryan Hotchkiss, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn., pointed out that his experience with residents regarding the new logo had been uniformly positive. He said, “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.”
Other voices had their issues with the new logo; Chris Prelitz, a local designer, told the Times that he and his wife were dining with at the Montage hotel and saw some parents and their children fleeing after some of the police cars showed up. He surmised, “When one of them’s there, it works. But all of a sudden, I saw, wow, when there are three, maybe four of them together, folks thought it was a SWAT team, federal agents. So it had a very striking, strong impact, so much so that I think there might be some unintended consequences.”
The protests at the March meeting prompted city officials to backtrack, considering whether to change the design they implemented; the City Council will discuss the issue again on Tuesday. City Manager John Pietig said that the council may change the logo “out of an abundance of caution to address questions that have been raised about the process.”
On Monday, Laguna Beach Council member Steve Dicterow told Fox & Friends, "Unfortunately this has devolved to a debate about what the flag means. 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."
Councilman Peter Blake expressed his frustration to the Times, asserting, “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. People are actually ridiculous enough to bring up comments about our cop cars having American flags on them.” He told "Fox & Friends First" that the protesters against the logo were left-wing extremists, "local hippies leftover from ... 1970," adding, "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.”
Laguna Beach is the home of the Sawdust Festival as well as the Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts.