On April 10, some voters in Palos Verdes Estates will vote on the dreaded Measure E, a property tax to pay for law enforcement services. The outcome of that vote will determine whether or not the city keeps its police force, or whether it contracts those services out to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. If the measure passes, people worth millions of dollars will have to pay an average ghastly sum of about $900 more taxes per year.
That’s about the cost of a single Ferrari front wheel rim. Ouch!!!
Although the campaign has been pressed in terms of “saving our police department” v. “no new taxes,” it’s really about two horrid policy positions whose true motivations are cloaked and virtually identical. Those who support the tax claim that the city benefits by having Mayberry, RFD homestyle law enforcement. Those who oppose it claim that a contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is a better financial deal.
Both are sort of right, neither is on point, and the obfuscation is intentional.
Back to the basics
You can’t understand the political mechanism of local law enforcement in rich enclaves without understanding why those enclaves were created in the first place. As PV Estate’s foundational documents made clear, the city was created to keep out blacks and non-whites. The demographics of 2018 bear witness to the city’s effectiveness in walling itself off from blacks, although a gradual increase in the number of residents of Asian extraction makes PVE less lily white than it once was.
Although racism was the community’s foundational glue, the modern expression of that racism can no longer be found in legal documents, which have been amended to comport with the U.S. Constitution. This motive remains alive and well, though, in PV Estates’ hatred of “outsiders.” An outsider of course is one who doesn’t own property in PVE, and includes diverse groups such as surfers, cyclists, lawn maintenance workers, and even the police and other civil servants employed by the city. That racism thrives in PV Estates is well documented in this declaration, sworn out under penalty of perjury, by former PVE reserve police officer Benjamin Siounit.
Former PVE police chief Tim Brown in a 1995 interview in The Swell Life, was blunt. In the video, Tim Brown says about Lunada Bay,
People here do not like outsiders in general … I mean, they pay a price to live here. They have beautiful views of the ocean from most of the homes in the city … so they are protective of their community as a whole, surfers or non-surfers … there is a sense of this ownership that’s really connected to their feelings about it.
Law enforcement, whether operated by the city in the form of the PVE police, or by the county in the form of the LA Sheriff’s Department, hews to the city’s fundamental purpose of keeping people out who they designate as outsiders, whether on boards or on bikes. As the voluminous documents regarding this tax measure attest, PV Estates in particular, and the entire peninsula in general, are physically safe places with little violent crime no matter who’s doing the policing.
The problem for peninsula residents today, of course, is that every cyclist and recreational fisherman, not to mention every poor person in California, has the right to enter PVE and enjoy the scenery along places like Bluff Cove regardless of color or place of residence. Therefore, the job of local law enforcement is to make sure that such non-residents exercise their rights of travel and visitation in small numbers and for strictly limited periods of time. The rights of PVE residents, of course, are considerably more expansive, something that visiting surfers and passing cyclists have found out the hard way. So it’s important to understand that at their core there is no disagreement between the opposing parties: Keep out the riff-raff!
There is, however, disagreeableness …
The policy pros and cons of Measure E
The superficial policy choice, it seems, is Andy Griffith v. SWAT. The Andy Griffith supporters are loathe to kick out the cops they have gotten to know over a period of years. At the city council level, the relationship between politicians, administrators, and the police is old-fashioned. It is personal, where everyone knows everyone else, and the cost of Andy Griffith, even to the tune of several million dollars a year, is worth maintaining those human relationships. Underlying that desire to hang onto the police department is the fear that the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, the largest one in the nation with a multi-billion dollar annual budget and paramilitary capabilities, will be too large and too impervious to develop the kind of personal relationships upon which PV Estates residents have become accustomed.
In practical terms, this means being able to direct enforcement arbitrarily, such as a “crackdown” on cyclists who run stop signs, without also enforcing laws against resident drivers who commit the same or worse violations. It means turning a blind eye to violence at Lunada Bay and allowing illegal structures to be built on public property in defiance of state law. And of course it means being the one in the driver’s seat: The police chief serves at the leisure of his bosses, the council and the city manager. The sheriff’s deputies work for someone else entirely and may not be quite as amenable to doing Robert Chapman’s bidding.
The difficulty of squaring the circle was recognized by PVE’s most recent chief of police, Jeff Kepley, who resigned after a four-month unexplained leave of absence, and is but one in a long string of people who have learned the hard way that PV Estates is one tough beat if you want to be chief of police. In short, as this email filed in litigation against the city makes crystal clear, the police in PVE simply cannot reconcile the requirement that they enforce the law with the practical difficulty of enforcing it against the people who hire them.
No amount of funding or taxation can remedy this problem; it’s as old as mankind, and it even has a name: Conflict of interest. Interestingly, none of the people in favor or opposed to the Measure E law enforcement property tax bring this up. There’s no discussion of whether or not the beat deputies of LA Sheriff’s Department will eventually be co-opted in the same manner as the officers on PVE’s police force. To the contrary, supporters of a contract with the sheriff’s department go to great lengths to assure voters that the deputies will provide the same on-the-street, local policing as the PVE police.
Lest anyone think the sheriff’s deputies won’t kiss the residents’ asses, the Bluff Cove front for Robert Chapman even claims that the sheriff’s department will hire “the best and brightest” from the current ranks of the city’s police force. Whether that’s true or not, the clear message is that residents will get the same arbitrary law enforcement and coddling that they “deserve.”
No one seems to think that what PV Estates law enforcement needs is more transparency, more independence from the city council, and more accountability outside the hands of the people to whom they will writing tickets and arresting junior for coke and DUI. Why is that? Because, as noted above, the purpose of policing in PV Estates is primarily to keep people out.
Feels like money
It’s unfortunate that the jobs of the PV Estates police are now likely to depend on an economic analysis, and even more unfortunate that the best analysis has been developed and advocated for by a group called the Palos Verdes Residents for Good Government. Unlike the vitriolic screeds peddled by “Ankur,” and the PVE hate web site, this group has members who actually sign their names to the things they believe in. Moreover, their analysis of Measure E really shows that it makes no financial sense to continue funding the local cop shop.
I won’t re-analyze their analysis, but if dollars are what move you, scroll through their mostly pro “Pros & Cons” and go with L.A. Sheriff’s Department.
Agreement in the guise of a dispute
It’s easy to see how deeply so many PV Estates residents dislike outsiders. All you have to do is scroll any of the Next Door comments about cycling and Big Orange. But it’s difficult to appreciate how profoundly PVE residents hate the other subset of outsiders, which are the people who work for them. This includes domestic workers, lawn care workers, pool care workers, construction workers, and city employees of every kind, including the police.
When I say hate, I don’t necessarily mean the direct, verbal kind, although if you scroll through the emails from Robert Chapman I obtained from a public records request and posted below, you’ll recoil at the disdain, ugliness, and contempt he displays for people who are simply doing their job in a way he disagrees with.
Yet the true measure of how deeply PVE residents despise those who serve them can be seen in the discussions on Next Door and other social media, where the outrage at police workers who make $140,000 a year and up for having a “cushy job” drives the residents insane. No one thinks to ask why having a well paid, safe, easy, not too stressful job is a bad thing. And no one thinks to ask how it is that wealthy retirees and shrub fund managers, people who do little or nothing of substance or value all day long, get off complaining about other people also having a good life.
This is where, oddly, the pro-Measure E and the anti-Measure E forces elide. Staunchly Trumpian, staunchly anti-tax, staunchly in favor of the rich and at war with the poor, PV Estates, at its core, evaluates everyone as either an insider or an outsider.
This is because it’s the good life that the Chapmans, the Jennifer Kings, the angry pro-tax and the angry, anti-tax residents of PVE so deeply begrudge their police and their city employees. Few if any of them can stand the thought that for a few extra hundred dollars a year out of their fat pockets some middle-class guy with a 2-hour commute might have good health insurance, a good job, a secure future, a good retirement, a happy life. The pro-tax advocates will argue about the efficiency of the force in jailing outsiders, and the anti-tax advocates will argue about the shock and awe of LASD, but no one will argue, ever, for the basic decency of having a little bit less so that someone else can have a lot more.
Instead, the Chapmans of PVE double down and triple down on people who they see as the worst kind of sponges, incompetent ne’er do-wells getting fat off the public weal. And it’s this evil, the Trumpian orthodoxy of “Everything for me, nothing for you,” that roils beneath the beautiful coastal scenery of PV Estates, a parsimonious, sanctimonious, jealous, and disgraceful inability to accept that the good life just might possibly, maybe, be good for other human beings, too.
Notes: The links below to Robert Chapman’s correspondence with the city reveal, in my opinion, a truly bad person. It will be impossible for you to digest the volume of these endlessly repetitive diatribes; it’s my personal opinion that the guy has severe problems. Feral cat feeding is a major policing issue? Are you fucking kidding me?
The correspondence is so full of contradictions, silliness, abuse, visions of grandeur, and bizarre claims that you would never be able to catalog the nuttiness of it all. However, here are a few lowlights:
- Chapman complains about runaway policing costs, but his type of hysterical, agitated snowflake demands are what drive up the police budget with silly phone calls, emails, and demands that the police come out and investigate a raccoon.
- Chapman rails against city manager Tony Dahlerbruch’s salary, the salaries of city staff, and the pay raises for city staff, but simultaneously demands that multiple branches of city government be tied up dealing with his petulance. This is the classic PV Estates resident: I want you to work 90 hours a week dealing with my shit, but I don’t want to pay you for it. I’d say that dealing with Chapman for even ten e-mails entitles you to be the highest paid city manager on earth.
- Chapman harps on PV Estate’s “naturally low crime rate” thanks to geography and Torrance PD, i.e. passing on the cost to the taxpayers in a different cities. This is Trumpism at its best–you pay for my border wall.
- One of his rants demands that any replacement chief of police live in PV Estates. This is the same guy who doesn’t want to pay high salaries, as if you can buy a home in PV on $100,000 per year. He also pretends to be some sort of broker for police chief applicants and invites them to submit their applications to his organization for screening. This is crazy as fuck. “Screening by the Coalition”?
- Chapman has liaised with Jim Nyman, the former mayor who caused the “problem” in the first place by creating the original parcel tax, although he assures people “We needed the money then!” and compares the city’s addiction to tax money to a kid addicted to cocaine, an analogy that so many PV parents will instantly identify with.
- In one email, Chapman claims PV is low-crime due to its “moat,” then switches sides in another email to bike-hating RPV city councilwoman Susan Brooks, asserting that the “crime wave of 2015” is continuing in a lesser form today. This is classic Chapman: say different things to different people and hope they don’t notice the difference because you have to wade through so much awful writing. Sometimes he’s attacking those attacking the Bay Boys, sometimes he’s using the class action lawsuit against the Bay Boys as evidence of police failure. Everyone sucks in Chapman’s world, except for one really cool guy, an “ankur,” to use a very hip word. To me he seems Trumpian in this profound way: Seek to destroy those who disagree, and don’t worry if everything he touches turns to shit.
- In another string, Chapman rides so far off the reservation that his horse dies when he hits the issue of license plate citations. His concern about this incredibly serious crime may have stemmed from the time he got cited by a cop, so now he insists that everyone on planet earth feel the same $35 pain he felt. When the police chief tells him that discretion is part of policing, it is like water poured on the surface of the sun.
- He is a relentless busybody snooping into construction permits, then complaining about city budgets when planning staff are hired. How is the city supposed to deal with all this whining if they don’t have employees? Chapman never says. Maybe they should just volunteer?
- In an email of Aug. 25, he claims that the trailhead coincidentally near his home is a haven for narcotics trafficking, where in an earlier email he claims that the city is safe and the cop jobs are easy. Yes, easy narcotics undercover work. Sign me right up.
- Chapman’s very small mind is filled to bustin’ with violations pertaining to illegal fireworks, illegal noise, illegal fires, illegal parties, and of course the Gog & Magog of high crimes & misdemeanors: Illegal parking. Leaping off the ledge into the deepest of deep ends, in one email he compares the situation at Bluff Cove near his home to NYC and Rudy’ Giulani’s “Broken Windows” policing policy. What NYC has in common with Chapman’s neighborhood is probably best left to a very good astrologist, or faith healer, or a Navajo sweat lodge.
- In his vein of high crimes & misdemeanors, an Aug. 19 email howls at the moon re: Side-by-side social cycling. I’ve been cycling all my life and have never heard this term. I thought all cycling with another human was social. Maybe he’s contrasting it to time trialing?
- The heat in his tiny little cranial kitchen gets unbearable as Chapman, in a June 23, 2016 email notes that PVE is internationally known as a place to break the law. Do we laugh? Cry? Take another fistful of Advil? I dunno.
- And there are hundreds and hundreds of pages like this, many documenting his ongoing obsession with barking dogs and a party rental. At one point we see him urging his like-minded neighbors to stage a call-in campaign at five minute intervals, supposedly to pressure the city and the police. Someone needs to gently tell him about “straight to voicemail.”
- Chapman reveals his methods in an Oct. 6, 2015 email, discouraging a compatriot from going to an actual meeting, and instead lauding the efficacy of phone calls and emails. Where some may see strategy, I see sloth and his cowering acceptance of reality; namely, going out in public is unpleasant when you have been rude and abusive to so many people.
In all their glory, here are the Chapman emails, replete with clunky prose, veiled threats, childish taunts, and hysterical claims all rolled into a fat slug of PDFs. You will not get far before your head hurts, I promise.
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