'In God We Trust' will not appear on police vehicles
Tehachapi City Council Update
August 17, 2019
"In God We Trust"
At their Aug. 5 meeting, the Tehachapi City Council voted 3-2 against putting the decal "In God We Trust" on all Tehachapi Police vehicles. At the July 15 meeting, Councilman Kenneth Hetge asked the City Council to approve the placement of the decal. A presentation was made at that time by Pastor Angelo Frazier, who is also chaplain for the Bakersfield Police Department. City staff was directed to research the issue.
Assistant City Manager Corey Costelloe researched the issue and said that the State of California basically left the decision to individual communities or in some cases to officers who could put the decal on their individual vehicles. Police Chief Kent Kroeger replied that since Tehachapi officers share a pool of cars, that would not be a solution. Costelloe also reminded the Council that there was always the potential for litigation from groups like the ACLU. He also added that he had received calls from some officers expressing concern over the use of the decals.
Responses from community members were also mixed. Susan Mervau said the motto has been on U.S. coinage since 1864 and was last reaffirmed as our National Motto in 2011. Phyllis Belcher said the motto was "divisive" and separates people of differing beliefs. Carl Gericke suggested the City could have magnetic decals that officers could choose to use on the car they drive.
Councilman Mike Davies said he didn't think the Council should add more controversy. As the officers drive City cars, he felt that adding the decal could be seen as imposing a belief to others. Councilman Phil Smith agreed. Councilwoman Joan Pogon-Cord, whose husband had been in law enforcement, said she would like to wait and see what the Bakersfield Police Department does with the issue.
Councilman Hetge said he felt the message would be inspirational and would lend a feeling of security and comfort to the citizens of Tehachapi. The final vote was Mayor Susan Wiggins who said, as a Christian, "I can't vote against God."
Also at the July meeting, Councilman Hetge requested that the Council look into declaring Tehachapi a Second Amendment Sanctuary City following the example of the City of Needles that on July 9 voted to extend conceal/carry permit reciprocity to the states of Arizona and Nevada and to waive and exempt the City from all new DOJ regulations regarding firearms. Hetge's plan would also have allowed city employees with CCW permits to carry guns at work. Police Chief Kent Kroeger had previously stated that he could not ask his officers to break the law.
Councilman Hetge moved that the City Council vote to hire the City's outside council (Richards, Watson & Gershon) to research the legal implications of such a measure. As no one seconded the motion, it died. City Attorney Tom Schroetter stated in a written statement to the City Manager that the firm charges the City at a rate of $250 per hour and that researching the measure could cost the City as much as $5,000.
Tehachapi City Council meetings are held the first and third Monday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Wells Education Center, 300 S. Robinson St.