American flag logo on Laguna Beach patrol cars has some concerned about the message being delivered

by in News

LAGUNA BEACH — A logo depicting an American flag, that is now adorning the side of Laguna Beach Police Department vehicles, has prompted discussion, and some controversy, nationwide.

The new patriotic logo came as a result of a switch by the city, in February, from all-white patrol cars to the more traditional black-and-whites.

A new Laguna Beach black and white police car next to an older version white car in Laguna Beach, CA on Monday, April 15, 2019. Laguna’s police cars where all white – the police department added a new American flag police graphic when they went to the black and white cars. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The Laguna Beach City Council reviewed six logo options and settled on two finalists. One was a blue and white coastal design; the other was the American flag. The City Council then asked Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella for her and the department’s preference. Farinella and Cpl. Ryan Hotchkiss, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Association — a group of 85 sworn and non-sworn department employees — preferred the logo with the flag.

There was some confusion over which of the two remaining logos was the winner. But police department and city officials said the selected option was the American flag — albeit a muted version of the current design.

To some in the community, the bold design that showed up on police units was considered too dramatic and “aggressive.”

Over the weekend, the police department and City Council members received a barrage of emails and phone calls, as national news programs raised the question of what the American flag represents on the cars. The correspondence came from within and outside Laguna Beach.

“I’d say the breakdown is 95 percent positive,” Hotchkiss said, referring to the emails.

“Driving around in our new black-and-whites with the flag on the side has been nothing but positive,” he said. “I’ve stopped at lights and people give me a thumbs-up.”

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said he received more than 200 emails in the last two days. “The sole sentiment has been unanimous,” he said. “Everyone loves the flag.”

On Monday, April 15, Hotchkiss explained the police department’s preference for the American flag logo.

“We thought it embodied the community and what we stand for as a police department,” he said. “Laguna Beach is unique and the American flag is different than what other police agencies have.”

The City Council, on Tuesday, will review the process of how the logo was selected. If a majority of the council votes to keep the logo as it is, it will remain be used on 11 patrol cars and two motorcycles.

The council also is expected to chose a new motto to accompany the logo. The police department’s preference: “Serving with Pride and Integrity.”

Michael Beanan, who served as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War and was responsible for flag treatment and etiquette, had questions weeks ago, when the red, white and blue logo first was seen around town in early March.

“The present re-design with an American flag sprawled across police cars is likely misappropriation of the American flag as a branding device,” he wrote to the City Council. “As an artist in an art community, the hacked display of the American flag is garish and promotes blunt nationalism in a community welcoming international visitors. The scattered, desiccated flag design is also unintelligible and would fail any design class.”

But others, such as Jennifer Zeiter, a local attorney, commended the use of the flag design on the patrol cars during the April 2 City Council meeting.

“It should not even be an issue,” she said. “The American flag represents all Americans. It should unify us, not only be used by the left to further create division. It’s an outrage and a clear indication just how dangerously left these people have become attacking our flag.”

For Janine Robinson, the debate dividing the community is not so much the use of the flag but rather the perception it raises.

“Our American flag is supposed to stand for democracy,” she posted on the Laguna Locals Facebook page. “True democracy means equality, justice and truth for all. With our current Potus, who at every turn defiles these very values or standards, waving the red, white and blue feels tainted, like rooting for the dark side.”

But for those in the police union, the flag represents part of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics.

“We feel that having the American flag displayed on our police vehicles symbolizes all of the good things that this city, county, state, and country not only stand for but strive to achieve,” Hotchkiss said. “America and its flag represent something larger than itself — freedom, democracy, human rights, and equality for all.”