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Residents of Laguna Beach are Upset at the Sight of US Flags on Police Cruisers

SourceA decision to affix an American flag graphic to the side of freshly painted Laguna Beach police cars is dividing residents, who are alternately praising the image as patriotic or panning it as too aggressive.

After hearing the criticism and acknowledging that the image they approved didn’t quite match the final results, officials agreed to reconsider their February decision to paint the Laguna Beach Police Department’s fleet of 11 squad cars. …

Artist Carrie Woodburn went to the podium at the March 19 council meeting and said it was “shocking to see the boldness of the design” when the newly painted Ford Explorers rolled out.

“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.”

Woodburn said in a follow-up email that her issues were only with the design aesthetic, adding that she also would have liked local artists to have been asked to contribute design ideas for the project. … “Then the police cars showed up with a different design that was not approved.” …

[T]he graphic element of the paint job didn’t scream “Laguna Beach” to everyone. Local designer Chris Prelitz was dining with his wife at the Montage hotel when he spotted several parents and small children scattering.

“There was like a little panic going on, and I was like, ‘What’s happening?’ ” Prelitz said. The hubbub, he discovered, was over a cluster of police cars that had arrived at the scene. “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 proposed graphic that the council unanimously approved in February was a more muted version of the design that now appears on the cars, according to a city staff report. In February, [City Manager John] Pietig called the proposed designs a “cloud-like look.”

Huh. Interesting. I wouldn’t have had that particular reaction to an American flag design on a police cruiser. It might not scream “Laguna Beach,” but to me it sort of screams “Right to confront your accusers in a trial by a jury of your peers.” But one man’s uplifting symbol of liberty and self-determination is a Laguna Beach artist’s shocking symbol of boldness and aggressiveness, I suppose.

It’s kind of ironic in a way. I grew up thinking that Old Glory was a symbol of hope for humanity. For my wretched refuse ancestors who yearned to immigrate here and breathe free. For the people from as far away as the Philippines to North Africa, China to France, who saw it coming on the sides of tanks, planes and shirt sleeves and knew they and their children were rescued from tyranny. For an entire world who saw it planted in the soil at Tranquility Base. In all that, somehow I never picked up on the “unintended consequences” of its “design aesthetic.” Thanks for sewing something that makes the parents and kids of Laguna Beach, CA run away in horror, Betsy Ross.

So I guess it’s back to the drawing board? Time to come up with something else? Something like that nice cloud-like look they were going for originally? I don’t know much about the town so I’m kind of at a loss here. But just to spitball ideas, what about something less bold, like kittens? Everybody likes kittens. Or something that isn’t triggering that does scream “LAGUNA BEACH!!!” Like, for instance, an artist painting seascapes alongside her vested comfort dog? Or a Humanities major in a Che Guevara and a “Coexist” bumper sticker on the Prius dad pays for? A barista with gauge earrings posing with his self-published spoken language CD of original poetry, perhaps?

Or something that really represents the culture, like Kristin and Lauren being all catty about Casey behind her back:

Anything but the Stars & Stripes, with its bold, aggressive, children-scattering design aesthetic. There is no place on a law enforcement vehicle for such a striking symbol of … you know, the law.