Local Currents

Justice, Decency and Mutiny


By David Vanderveen

“No code can cover all contingencies. We cannot put justice aboard our ships in books. Justice and decency are carried in the heart of the captain, or they be not aboard.”
–Captain Bligh’s court-martial judge, “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

It has been a big week in Laguna and the nation. While watching “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962, starring Marlon Brando) over the weekend, I was reminded of both the national electoral mutiny against unrestrained government and a local mutiny that is brewing over police officers intentionally putting young speedboarders in harms’ way.

There are different points of view about what last week’s national and state elections mean, but the clear evidence both for Republicans and Democrats is that the majority of American people do not want over-reaching government solutions. Americans choose liberty. Most of us are not fond of a government that steps into our bedrooms, raids our wallets and dictates medical care to our doctors.

Locally, a hot issue that was not on the ballots this week was downhill skateboarding or “speedboarding.” What started out with much controversy had evolved into a well-managed local solution: the kids are behaving and by-and-large skating safely, after our local Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee recommended that speedboarders be treated like fast bikes, not pedestrians—they have similar profiles, control and abilities to stop.

A week ago I received a video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7lCgP0wje8&feature=share) of a local motorcycle cop pulling over speedboarders in Bluebird canyon and, by Captain-Bligh-like logic, demanding that they ride into traffic, downhill without controlling their speed, a suicidal order by a local police officer that flies in the face of concerns for our children’s safety and our community standards.

The kids should let the policeman, even with his foolishly dangerous directives, write tickets. But they should not obey his wrongheaded and potentially deadly dictates.


Preventing child endangerment trumps poorly defined “pedestrian” and “skateboard” vehicle codes. Obviously, we also need to redefine “public safety officer” in this process.

Granted, I’m not perfect. Last week I snapped at a young 20-year-old man who decided it was a good idea to paddle out at Brooks Street, and when he wasn’t getting the wave selection he wanted, cuss out local surfers, flip them off and shoot his board at them. I don’t tolerate dangerous behavior, so I told him to shut up, and back up his threats or go in. A cooler head might have reacted better, but I don’t believe we’ll see that behavior again at Brooks from that lad.

When we see dangerous behavior by our government officials in this country, we are empowered to regulate, remove and replace them. We have some great tools to do it through the political process —  elections, recalls and ballot initiatives to name a few. Our founding fathers suggested even more aggressive measures if necessary.

Police Chief Paul Workman is working to develop improved code that takes our unique speedboarders into account. Hopefully he will choose to include speedboarders in the drafting process. It would be a great step at building bridges with the community and restoring faith in our police force.

Like Fletcher Christian and the seamen on the Bounty, we should be encouraged that when we see injustice in our community, whether locally, at the state level or nationally, we are empowered to mutiny. As Thomas Jefferson said, “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”

Power to the people!

David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is [email protected].

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