Ferguson Debacle Results In Armored Vehicles Being Removed From Two California Police Departments

from the a-tale-of-two-PDs dept

Today’s militarized policeman often feels naked without the protection of mine-resistant vehicles, despite very little evidence that such vehicles are necessary to handle the deadly (or is it?) rigors of police work. Citizens, however, aren’t so sure they like seeing their law enforcement officers rolling out like they’re keeping the peace in the middle of Baghdad.

Even better, some representatives are finally starting to feel the same way. Sure, the vehicles and other militarized accoutrements may come cheap, thanks to DHS grants, but even deep, deep discounts aren’t enough to justify picking these up simply because the US government has made them available.

Two law enforcement agencies will be returning their MRAPs to Uncle Sam, with the announcements arriving almost simultaneously.

Davis, Calif., city officials have directed the police department to return a surplus U.S. military armored vehicle to the federal government after residents, citing images seen during protests in Ferguson, Mo., expressed fears of militarization.

The Davis Police Department now has 60 days to get rid of a $689,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle, which police acquired through a U.S. Defense Department program, and must consider other rescue vehicle options.

Councilman Robb Davis explained the rationale behind the decision:

“I am opposed to the investments that are made and then the results of those investments flowed back to our community in ways that may not hurt our community in a physical sense by are destructive in terms of not increasing our security but increasing our anxiety.” Councilman Robb Davis said at a council meeting Tuesday.

The public’s growing unease with the weaponry amassed via the Pentagon’s 1033 program has been hurtling towards critical mass in recent weeks, thanks to the heavy-handed tactics and military gear used by police officers in response to protests in Ferguson, MO. The police cited armored vehicles’ life-saving qualities in two separate instances, but that wasn’t enough to sway the council’s vote. Perhaps the worst part (for the cops) is the fact that they didn’t even get a chance to take their new armored toy for a spin.

The Davis Police Department took possession of the free vehicle two weeks ago…

It still had that new 1033 acquisition smell. What a shame.

Over in San Jose, CA, it’s a completely different story. Rather than having an MRAP pried from law enforcement’s clutches by city reps, the San Jose Police Department gave it up voluntarily to protect its relationship with the people it serves.

San Jose police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol told KCBS the decision was made based on concerns for potential damage to the department’s image and community relationships.

“We want to keep their trust. We don’t want them to feel we are going off on another path with our police department,” she said. “We want them to feel comfortable about the tools that we use.”

Kudos to the SJPD. Not many police departments offer this sort of statement as lip service, much less with actions to back it up. Notice that it’s San Jose, with a population of nearly 1 million and a violent crime rate right at the national average, that is voluntarily giving up its armored vehicle. Davis (pop. 66,000) has a violent crime rate that’s roughly half of San Jose’s, and its MRAP had to be taken away from it by the city government. (Quick fact: San Jose had 35 murders in 2012. Davis had 4… in the last decade.) Who would you rather be policed by? Those who know that combating serious crime doesn’t require the use of shock-and-awe vehicles or those who think that officer safety is more important than maintaining a positive relationship with their community?

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Comments on “Ferguson Debacle Results In Armored Vehicles Being Removed From Two California Police Departments”

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51 Comments
Rocco Maglio (profile) says:

Need to use the equipment

If the police department has this equipment it is going to feel the need to use it. I was amused when the Brevard Sheriff used their armored personnel carrier in a hostage situation that involved a knife. I am sure this equipment requires expensive maintenance and it needs to justified in the budget, so it will be necessary to use it periodically.

Anonymous Coward says:

Part of me thinks that these police departments deserve some kudos for giving up this type of military equipment.

But, then I think further and realize that all they are doing is returning to a point they should have never left in the first place. Why give kudos so soon?

Regardless, police departments across the entire country need to start doing this (returning military equipment). And, then once they’ve done that, take yet another step towards the people to start repairing the rift that has developed, a rift the departments themselves, aided by our own federal government, have caused.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The kudos to SJPD is deserved not just because they gave it up but rather WHY they gave it up. It shows that they are listening to and value the relationship they have with the community they serve. This is fundamentally important and dramatically different than most PD’s everywhere else. They get it.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You cannot necessarily blame the police for taking the equipment. If someone walked into your place of business and told you that if you filled out a form they would give you a Humvee, wouldn’t you fill out the form?

Hey – you could, at some point in your career, get shot at. Would you like military body armor? Of course you would.

It’s the jackwagons that didn’t think through offering it that should get their hands slapped, not the people that said yes when they were offered a free grenade launcher. Trust me, the only answer you will ever hear when you offer a guy a grenade launcher is ‘yes please’.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Sure, but assuming your business already maintained a fleet of vehicles and would store and maintain it at what amounts to someone else’s cost.

I’m sure you get it – there is zero cost for this equipment for the people that sign for it. With no cost, it is a pretty enticing toy. I’m not sure I would have thought through the damage just having them could have done.

TasMot (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ahhh, now I understand. NSA is collecting all of the SIGINT, DHS is supplying every local PD with MRAPs. Now, when NSA determines where the introvert is in his basement sharing the next big Mickey Mouse movie on bittorrent, they can send in the MRAP with the local trigger boys with their bullet proof vests (fresh out of the mothballs) and grenade launchers and put that nasty file sharer away for the rest of his life (plus one day so that he never threatens society(/the legacy entertainment industry) again.

YEAH, we are all safe in our lifetime plus two more from every seeing a mickey mouse derivative work. Life is good…

Michael (profile) says:

If they did a little welding and painting, they could probably make an MRAP look like Thomas the Train.

That would make sense to me. You have a vehicle that would help make your police officers more approachable to children, you could use it for community events, and it would totally take the wind out of a heated situation with a drug lord when you rolled up with a giant smiling steam train and told him to drop his weapon.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Or it could just be twice as creepy. That all depends on the police in it and the department behind it. And unlike ice cream trucks, which are usually ice cream trucks and not pedo kidnap vans, authoritarian creeper police easily outweigh the friendly neighborhood patrol officers who actually seem to think “serve and protect” means something.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In North Hollywood, an MRAP would have slowed SWAT getting to the scene even more – they didn’t actually need one.

As far as the tower – I assume you mean Whitman? They didn’t need additional cover on the ground and could not have driven an MRAP up the steps to go get him.

I’m not sure either of those examples would have benefited from this particular equipment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

How exactly would a MRAP be useful in either of those instances? Somehow I must have missed the part where the Whittman and the robbers set mines.

(Mind you, I am the one who originally brought up both of those as for reasons why this shouldn’t be all about removing SWAT teams and all tactical gear in a previous post.)

jilocasin (profile) says:

Too bad it wasn't used for what it was intended for....

If I understand correctly, this program (military gear for police departments) was _supposed_ to help prepare our local law enforcement to handle the next 9/11. Not that I think another 9/11 is likely anytime soon, but regardless.

Unfortunately many of our police departments are unregulated, unsupervised, and undisciplined. They seem to believe, not only that they are above the law, but in many cases they _are_ the law. Just look at any run of the mill tin-pot dictatorship to see where that leads (or most U.S. police forces, sadly).

If we stopped using our National Guardsmen as underpaid Reservists and kept them state side to handle disasters and domestic emergencies, _they_ would be around to handle the next Katrina or 9/11. If you don’t think we have enough of them, and _still_ want to involve the police this is how I think it _should_ have been handled;

Let police departments acquire surplus military equipment via the pentagon’s 1033 program.

Require that they receive proper training on how to use this equipment, say from those National Guardsmen.

Restrict it’s use to _very_ specific situations; national emergencies, _actual_ terrorist attack, etc. Some sort of declaration from the governor or president. Otherwise it’s off limits.

While you’re at it, limit the use of S.W.A.T. teams to what they were designed for; bomber in the mall, shooter with hostages in a grade school, heavily armed bank robbers, etc.

Stop using them to raid houses for unauthorized DVD production or to deliver no-knock warrants for suspected pot use to homes with small children at two o’clock in the morning will make everyone safer.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Too bad it wasn't used for what it was intended for....

“If I understand correctly, this program (military gear for police departments) was supposed to help prepare our local law enforcement to handle the next 9/11″

If that’s the purpose, then that’s absolutely batshit insane.

In what way would any of this equipment have been even remotely useful with 9/11? And if things have degenerated to the point where it is needed, then we should be doing what we used to do anyway: call in the national guard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Officer Safety

This is a very important misconception: “officer safety is more important than maintaining a positive relationship with their community”. Officer safety is not at odds with community relations, rather officer safety is substantially enhanced by having a good relationship with the community they serve.

TasMot (profile) says:

The Federal Government is going BROKE

and to help the cause, they are giving away $680,000 MRAPs. Man, I am so confused. I thought that when I’m short of cash, I stop spending money. No, to the Federal government, it means spend more and give away equipment to local police departments that they don’t really need.

All of the politicians and administrators will be in the business of raising taxes forever because now instead of just wasting our money, they can give it away in big chunks to local PDs that will have no real use for the equipment it receives.

A big part of the problem that local police departments have adopted the “fix it now” mentality. It used to be that when there was a “shooter” the smart tactic was to just wait the situation out. Let the situation stand for a couple hours to a couple days and wait for the situation to resolve itself peacefully.

Now, the local “star” police department has to storm in on exorbitantly expensive equipment for the 5 o’clock news to “save the day”, RIGHT NOW.

It’s another aspect of the “do something” political mentality. It doesn’t have to be the right thing, just do something.

Leit (user link) says:

Re: The Federal Government is going BROKE

Let’s be fair; the “storm in” mentality is justified in the case of active shooters. In the Virginia Tech shootings, for example, the shooter racked up most of his kill count while police were already on the scene. Ironically, they were waiting for the heavy gear to arrive instead of engaging him, all in the name of Officer Safety…

nasch (profile) says:

Re: The Federal Government is going BROKE

A big part of the problem that local police departments have adopted the “fix it now” mentality. It used to be that when there was a “shooter” the smart tactic was to just wait the situation out.

IIRC that changed after Columbine. They were going to wait it out. Meanwhile the shooters wandered around the school killing people.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: The Federal Government is going BROKE

and to help the cause, they are giving away $680,000 MRAPs. Man, I am so confused. I thought that when I’m short of cash, I stop spending money. No, to the Federal government, it means spend more and give away equipment to local police departments that they don’t really need.

I don’t know about this equipment in particular, but sometimes Congress forces the military to buy stuff they don’t want. Then they have to do something with it. In the case of tanks, they park them out in the desert (the ones they don’t sell to another country). Maybe this stuff is similarly not wanted, and they found a seemingly better use for it.

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