Purchase is gross misuse of community funds
At the request of the Davis Police Department, the Davis City Council unanimously approved the purchase of a new $138,000 Armored Rescue Vehicle (ARV) for the department at a meeting on Sept. 24.
In arguing for a new armored vehicle, Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel stated that it would replace the city’s previous Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle which was returned to the federal government. Pytel argued it could also be helpful in certain incidents, like that of rescue and extraction operations, transportation of equipment and personnel, tactical medical support in hazardous environments and active shooter situations. Although Pytel thinks the vehicle may prove useful, he nevertheless concedes that in Davis’s only active shooter case in recent history such a vehicle wouldn’t have prevented the loss of Officer Natalie Corona.
The Editorial Board, however, feels that potential benefits are not a sufficient justification to spend a whopping $138,000 on this vehicle that could instead be used toward tangible benefits to the Davis community.
So far this quarter, both the campus and the city’s police departments have held several meet-and-greet events in what appears to be an effort to bridge the widening gap between the community and the police department. And while the sentiment is appreciated, direct action is not only noticeably absent, but much needed here.
The Davis PD and the community would be far better off if they invested in addressing the community’s concerns, not military-grade equipment. Putting those funds toward public schools, parks, the city’s solar energy initiative or de-escalation and implicit bias training would be more than just “probably acceptable” — it would be welcomed and commended.
Ultimately, though, police departments simply should not be militarized. Aside from empirical evidence demonstrating the ineffectiveness of police militarization in protecting officers or reducing crime, militarization also sows discord between communities and officers.
Militarization often results in law enforcement employing higher levels of force against citizens — a fear Pytel ostensibly tried to quell by describing the vehicle as defensive in format, as opposed to offensive. But regardless of how the vehicle is constructed, acquiring such equipment still conveys a message to the community that it needs greater methods of enforcement, which will only stoke the concerns that have grown in recent years regarding excessive use of force by the Davis PD.
This new ARV may be less military-style in appearance, but its acquisition is still unreasonable. Period. Crime rates in Davis do not warrant an ARV, and the types of crime Davis deals with, most of which are burglaries and thefts, certainly do not justify it. And apart from the stated potential uses, the police chief himself fails to adequately justify the need to spend this money on a new armored vehicle. It appears this purchase will accomplish little more beyond increasing tension between the Davis community and its police department.
The Davis PD should have consulted with the Davis Police Accountability Commission before going to the city council. But now that people have been given the opportunity to voice their reservations, the police department should give those funds back to the community and address their concerns. The police are only as strong and effective as their community’s support for them, and we are more than willing to give our support so long as the Davis PD is willing to give the same to us.
Written by: The Editorial Board