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?