Yesterday I was scrolling through the list of web sites that have recently linked to this blog, and I came across an unusual one: SavePVpolice.org. It’s not often that the police are designated as an endangered species, a list more often populated by things like democracy, the First Amendment, and equality under the law.
Not very intrigued, I clicked on the link and it took me to an anonymous web site purporting to support the Palos Verdes Estates police department and “Measure E,” the tax measure that PVE residents will vote for or against on April 10, and depending on the outcome, will either re-fund or abolish the city police department and replace it with a policing contract through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
This “PVE Cops Matter” web site lists the bare bones of Measure E and why you should vote for it. A more detailed impartial analysis is here, and the rabid voice against the tax proposal is here. At the end of the day it’s a bunch of almost rich people fighting over how much tax money to spend to keep out the riff-raff, so, whatevs.
But in the early part of the day, or rather the wee hours, it has something to do with democracy, with #fakenews, with Internet trolls, with the cowardice of the almost rich, and of course with cycling.
Almost three years ago the cycling hordes remonstrated with the powers that be in PV Estates and got them to put up a couple of signs stating the law, that cars must give cyclists three feet when passing. This created a backlash of incredible proportions and resulted in the mayor and her city council slapping down any further steps to enhance road safety for vulnerable users.
The fury of the almost rich people was impressive, such that the police were temporarily put on “biker harassment duty,” resulting in many trips down to Torrance courthouse to have bogus tickets dismissed. Over time, though, the unending stream of cyclists and the intensity of the political battle caused most PV Estates residents to shrug and stop caring, finally realizing that cyclists pose zero hazard to their Rage Rovers, and finally grasping that every bike rolling through PV Estates meant one less car.
“Less cars in our city.” This was arithmetic they could understand, and it happened in tandem with a lawsuit against the city, its police force, and several residents alleging all manner of high crimes and misdemeanors in regard to violence at the Lunada Bay surf break. In short, the bikers lost the battle but won the war. The cops no longer harass us, most are downright friendly, and the nastiest residents aren’t much worse than resigned to having healthful, safe outdoor activities in their non-exclusive community.
Little boy chicken
One price for engaging in civic discourse in PV Estates is, unfortunately, the risk that you might incur the wrath of Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr. Early on in the bike battle I heard whispers about this guy, mostly along the lines of “be careful,” and “he is spiteful beyond belief,” and “Bob has the world’s worst baldheaded short man complex.”
It turns out that although the first warning was needless, and the third warning was possibly true, in my opinion Chapman really is the most horrible person in PV Estates. And for an enclave whose mayor and city council hate people for riding bicycles, that’s saying something.
Who is Chapman? That’s a good question, because much of the conflict and fury that I encountered when advocating for safety for vulnerable road users seemed to be fomented by a small group of truly hateful people. After listening to the rumors, I wondered if Chapman were perhaps the Hater-in-Chief, so I made a public records request to the city to find out if he was as nasty as I had heard.
Several hundred dollars and more than a month later, the horribly overtaxed city clerk handed me a disk with all of the documents responsive to my request. Although Chapman’s name had been redacted from many of the documents since they are police incidents, given the fact that the documents were produced in response to a request for “activities or complaints regarding or connected with Robert Chapman,” it is my opinion, and will likely be yours, too, that the person responsible for the great majority of these these complaints is not someone you’d want to ever call “neighbor,” let alone “in-law.”
The police incident reports connected to Chapman are astounding, so I’ve broken them down into three files. Note that these are all public documents and available to anyone willing to make the request and pay the copying fee. They are only current through March, 2017, so if you make your own request you will likely unearth a lot more.
But these records documenting the World’s Worst Neighbor Ever are not all. Chapman is also the ultimate keyboard warrior, a guy who I’ve never seen show up to contest an issue before the city council, but who prefers to flood the world with his opinions via email and, I also believe, anonymous Internet commentary.
In response to my records request, the city also released hundreds of emails from Chapman, many of which bear his name and company logo, and others which use one of his favorite handles, “ankur.” You will get a big laugh when you read the Urban Definition of “ankur,” and try to square it with this bald, squat, middle-aged Internet tough guy holed up in an ugly house as he complains to the police about raccoons.
Many of the emails relate to the hilarious Chapman “assault” case; others relate to his virulent opposition to Measure D, the precursor to Measure E, which he now also opposes and leads the charge against. I’ll post those and an analysis of the Measure E funding bill later in this series.
When chickens battle
One of the hallmarks of cowardice is anonymity, especially when used to tear down others. The Bluff Cove HOA web site as well as the web site dedicated to attacking individual PV residents and cops (since put behind a registration wall), bear great similarity to Chapman’s writing, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that he’s the author.
But The World’s Worst Neighbor is old news in PV Estates, and he is in many ways its most representative resident. Chapman’s hostility to non-residents, his aggressive use of his copious free time to badger opponents, his vindictiveness, his shame at being rich but not super rich, and his belief that the public should be subordinate to his personal wants is what the establishment of places like PV Estates were all about in the first place, with a particular emphasis on the exclusion of blacks and non-whites. So as odious as Chapman is, he’s also a fair representative of the community and its mores, too. The violence at Lunada Bay and the hate crime attack against the Pakistani liquor shop owner in PVE a few years back didn’t germinate in a petri dish of love, acceptance, diversity, and justice.
You need look no farther than the web site opposing him and dedicated to :saving” the PVE police department to find the commonality … this web site is anonymous, too. Apparently when you are outraged and angered in PV Estates, you scurry off to your computer and let ’em have it, anonymously.
Because, you know, that’s how Madison, Hamilton, and Jay wrote the Federalist Papers.
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