The Bakersfield City Council has given the go-ahead to adding the motto "In God We Trust" to police and fire vehicles.
The council of the southern San Joaquin Valley city approved the decals Wednesday on a 4-2 vote.
The Bakersfield Californian reported the decision followed a two-hour debate in which 19 speakers opposed the decals and 11 spoke in favor of them.
ACLU attorney Jordan Wells told the council that placing "In God We Trust" on police cars is bad public policy.
"Unlike God, police officers are fallible," he said. "Their conduct should be scrutinized by the public, and when they overstep their authority, we must insist on accountability."
Councilmember Jacquie Sullivan said she loves the motto. "It's meaningful. It's powerful. Those words are intended to encourage," Sullivan said.
Councilmembers Willie Rivera and Andrae Gonzales voted against the plan.
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"I think it's clear this decision doesn't represent everybody in this community and I think this is a problem," Rivera said.
Gonzales noted he is a Christian but opposes the decals. "The God I believe in is much bigger than a bumper sticker," he said.
Earlier in the week, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy declared his support for the decals.
"Displaying 'In God We Trust' — the official motto of the United States — on Bakersfield Police Department cars is a testament to each officer's commitment to upholding the rule of law and defending the City of Bakersfield and its residents," he said in a statement to The Californian.
The decals are to be privately funded, although details have yet to be worked out.
Leaders of the neighboring Kern County city of Delano approved placing the motto on its police cars in April. The city of Shafter will take up the idea later this month.
In a similar issue, the Laguna Beach City Council voted earlier this year to retain a new red, white and blue American flag motif that runs through the word "police" on its black-and-whites after some complaints. The panel had approved a design more muted than the graphic that was actually produced.