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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

City Council approves purchase of $138,000 bulletproof armoured vehicle for police department

Some members of the public present at the meeting questioned whether the vehicle  was best use of city funds

The Davis Police, with the unanimous support of the city council, has been approved to acquire a new Armoured Rescue Vehicle (ARV), which will cost the city $138,000 plus sales tax. Davis Police said that the vehicle will assist them in active-shooter situations and other operations. 

At a city council meeting on Sept. 24, Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel presented his department’s case for funding regarding a new armored vehicle. He began by contrasting the desired ARV with the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) that the department obtained in 2014 from military surplus. The council ultimately voted to return the MRAP to the federal government, citing concerns from the community about local police employing military equipment.  

“Even though there was considerable acknowledgment at the time that having the ability to have armor and offer protection for police use was probably acceptable, really at the time most of the conversation was around the type of vehicle,” Pytel said.  

Pytel said that newer armored vehicles have less of a military-style appearance than past models, comparing the prospective ARV to an Amazon Prime delivery truck in his presentation. Pytel also said that the new ARV would be less expensive than law-enforcement armored vehicles of the past, such as the Bearcat

“There are new versions of armored vehicles — they look quite different and the cost came down considerably,” Pytel said. 

The desired ARV is designed in a “defensive format, not an offensive format” Pytel said, and though it is armor-plated, it lacks gun ports or turrets.  

Pytel outlined several of the intended uses for the vehicle, including rescue and extraction operations as well as tactical medical support in hazardous environments. It can also be used for the transportation of personnel and equipment, he said, in addition to providing ballistic “hard cover” during an active shooter situation. 

Pytel pointed to two recent police deaths from shootings, those of Officer Tara O‘Sullivan in Sacramento and Officer Natalie Corona in Davis, to argue for the usefulness of the prospective vehicle. He noted that while Corona’s death might not have been prevented by the use of an ARV, the Davis PD did utilize an armored vehicle borrowed from West Sacramento PD during the incident. 

During the public comment, several Davis citizens argued against approving funding for an ARV. Dillian Horton, vice-chair of the Davis Police Accountability Commission, questioned the present need for the vehicle and suggested that such a purchase request should have been presented to his commission before going to the council. 

“I just don’t believe it’s impossible for us to see some of the issues before the council does,” Horton said. “I really just want to push for a process that makes that routine.”

Some questioned whether the ARV was the best use of city funds while other commenters suggested that the vehicle, regardless of its appearance, still constitutes the militarization of local police equipment. Councilmember Will Arnold addressed public sentiment against the vehicle.

“I reject the notion that we ought to enhance police accountability by limiting access to purely defensive materials, that strikes me as somewhat offensive,” Arnold said, according to the Davis Enterprise

Mayor Pro Tempore Gloria Partida expressed some reluctance, but pointed to recent racially-motivated shootings as evidence that the ARV was a wise investment for the city. 

“It’s a struggle to say ‘yes’ to this, but I think that unfortunately, it is something that in our day and space we need,” Partida said, according to the Davis Enterprise

The council unanimously voted to approve funding the ARV and to work on new policies dictating the use and deployment of the vehicle with the input of the Police Accountability Commission.

Written by: Tim Lalonde — city@theaggie.org


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