On Oct. 21 the Davis City Council voted to send the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle that the Davis Police Department (DPD) acquired from military surplus back to the U.S. government. They also amended the city’s policy on acquiring military surplus equipment in the future. The two-part vote totaled 3-2 and 5-0, respectively.
According to the DPD, the city has been participating in a program for the last 20 years in which military surplus equipment is turned over to city jurisdictions. Approximately five years ago the DPD proposed that they participate in the newest of these programs, titled the Department of Defense Excess Property Program (1033 Program), and they were approved.
It was through this program that the DPD acquired the new MRAP. According to Lieutenant Thomas Waltz of the DPD, the MRAP was to replace an old one that the DPD had acquired many years before.
Councilmember Robb Davis initiated the discussion of the fate of the MRAP at the end of August, proposing the two-part vote for sending the MRAP back to the U.S. government and also requiring any acquisition of military equipment to be approved by City Council moving forward.
“Bringing in a military vehicle, given the association of that vehicle with the destructive force of the military, was really risking eroding a lot of the trust that had been developed [between the DPD and citizens of Davis],” Davis said.
Furthermore, Davis said he felt that the vehicle was not well adapted for the uses that the DPD would use it for.
Waltz said that the department would use the vehicle in the situation of a small arms fire, an evacuation, rescues in which armored protection was required or in the case of a natural disaster.
In recent weeks an MRAP was used by police during a shooting in Placer County and in the city of Roseville. It was used most recently in the city of Davis several weeks ago to serve several search warrants.
In the event that the DPD needs to use a MRAP, they would now have to borrow one from the West Sacramento Police Department. This means that in the event of an emergency the DPD would have to wait to use the vehicle for up to three hours until it could get approval for use.
Although Waltz said he feels the DPD could use a piece of equipment such as the MRAP, his priority is to maintain the DPD’s positive relationship with the city of Davis.
“We police the community and the community will let us know how they want to be policed through the community leaders. We work for them,” Waltz said.
In the upcoming months, the DPD will be holding forums with community members. The goal of the forums is to foster positive relationships within the community by creating an open dialogue about what the police feel they need to do to keep the community safe and what the community feels is appropriate.
Matthew Carmichael, the UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD) Chief, said that he believes the MRAP to be an important safety tool and that he is sorry to see it sent back.
Carmichael said that a piece of equipment like a MRAP could be critical in an incident like a school shooting. Waiting for the equipment to come from West Sacramento may not be good enough.
“Safety is about timeliness; the closer the better,” Carmichael said.
However, he said he believes that creating a safe environment is a collaborative process of the police and the community and that both bodies must work together for the best result.
Although both the DPD and the UCDPD have expressed a need for an armored vehicle like the MRAP, the community consensus is that the MRAP doesn’t belong here.
“Davis is an extremely safe community, and having something as powerful as an MRAP is excessive in my opinion,” Kelsey Hutcherson, a fourth-year international agricultural development major said.
“I understand that it is intended to keep the peace, however I can’t help but think about the danger an over-militarized police force could have on the community.”