A decision to get a little more patriotic on police vehicles is sparking a veritable flag fight in one California coastal town, where some critics say a stars-and-stripes graphic is too “aggressive,” according to a report.
Residents of Laguna Beach are divided by the decision to update the police department’s fleet of 11 squad cars with an image of an American flag inside the word “police” on the black-and-white vehicles. After being unanimously approved by the city council in February, a vote will be held Tuesday to keep the Old Glory-themed design or to find an alternative, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The new patriotic theme — depicted on Ford Explorers as they were rolled out during a March 19 council meeting — was derided by local artist Carrie Woodburn, who said she was taken aback by the “boldness of the design.”
She said it’s out of place in the tony, tourist-laden beach town of 23,000 people roughly 55 miles south of Los Angeles.
“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.”
But attorney Jennifer Welsh Zeiter called the design “exceptional,” suggesting any objection to it was likely connected to ill will toward President Trump.
“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,” Zeiter said.
Cops who have driven vehicles with the new design have received nothing but positive feedback, according to Laguna Beach Police Cpl. Ryan Hotchkiss.
“Every time I came to a stop sign, every time I came to a red light, somebody is telling me the car looks great,” Hotchkiss said at a city council meeting in March. “Every one of our members that drives the car loves it, and we look forward to keeping them the way they are.”
That’s not how designer Chris Prelitz sees it though, after a recent incident with his wife at a hotel where he saw several people and their children panicking after several of the newly designed vehicles arrived on scene.
“When one of them’s there, it works,” Prelitz told the newspaper. “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.”
City Manager John Pietig said the police vehicles will remain black and white regardless of Tuesday’s decision to keep the new logo or come up with another scheme. City officials agreed to reconsider the decision after acknowledging that the flag-themed motif – a “cloud-like look,” according to Pietig – fell short of expectations.
Seven of the department’s vehicles already have the updated design, Laguna Beach police officials told the Los Angeles Times.
“This is about safety,” Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said in February. “I want anybody to see it, period.”
Police Chief Laura Farinella told the Laguna Beach Independent in February that the proposed design change was made in an attempt to be more visible to the public.
“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,” Farinella told the newspaper.