Commentary: Paper Praises Police, Blasts Council on MRAP

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Reading the coverage in the local paper, I am a bit appalled, even after nearly nine years of doing the Vanguard, at the lack of critical analysis of last week’s incident. There are a lot of tough questions that still need to be asked about this. Yesterday we had a long discussion of the use of the MRAP, but these questions are really not limited to the MRAP alone.

The Davis Enterprise – not surprisingly ‒ gives “cheers” all around to the incident and its handling.

The editor writes: “Cheers to the Woodland and West Sacramento police departments for lending us their MRAP vehicles during last week’s shooting incident. The mutual-assistance agreements our city has with our neighbors really came in handy. Under different circumstances, we might have been left to count the cost of the political point-scoring that led the Davis City Council to reject a military surplus vehicle of our own.”

That is really an appalling comment that denigrates three councilmembers who had serious concerns about the need and application of the MRAP. It also dodges a question that we posed yesterday – whether it was appropriate to bring in not one, but two MRAPs, following the 3-2 vote by council – twice last fall – where there were expressed serious misgivings about its use in this community.

But it gets worse.

The Enterprise writes, “There are military-grade threats out there that demand a military-grade response. “

The Enterprise is out of step here, not only with community discourse and sentiment, but national ones too.

Last June, an ACLU report “focused on more than 800 SWAT raids conducted by law enforcement agencies in 20 states and on the agencies’ acquisition of military weaponry, vehicles, and equipment.

“We found that police overwhelmingly use SWAT raids not for extreme emergencies like hostage situations but to carry out such basic police work as serving warrants or searching for a small amount of drugs,” said Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice. “Carried out by ten or more officers armed with assault rifles, flashbang grenades, and battering rams, these paramilitary raids disproportionately impacted people of color, sending the clear message that the families being raided are the enemy. This unnecessary violence causes property damage, injury, and death.”

The report “documents multiple tragedies caused by police carrying out needless SWAT raids, including a 26-year-old mother shot with her child in her arms and a 19-month-old baby critically injured when a flashbang grenade landed in his crib.”

In Radley Balko’s 2013 book, The Rise of thee Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, he cites a February 2010 incident in Columbia, Missouri, where “the police department’s SWAT team served a drug warrant at the home of Jonathan Whitworth, his wife, and their seven-year-old son. Police claimed that eight days earlier they had received a tip from a confidential informant that Whitworth had a large supply of marijuana in his home. They then conducted a trash pull, which turned up marijuana ‘residue’ in the family’s garbage.

“That was the basis for a violent, nighttime, forced-entry raid on the couple’s home. The cops stormed in screaming, swearing, and firing their weapons, and within seconds of breaking down the door they intentionally shot and killed one of the family’s dogs, a pit bull. At least one bullet ricocheted and struck the family’s pet corgi. The wounded dogs whimpered in agony. Upon learning that the police had killed one of his pets, Whitworth burst into tears.

“The Columbia Police Department SWAT team recorded many of its drug raids for training purposes, including this one. After battling with the police over its release, a local newspaper was finally able to get the video through state open records laws and posted it to the Internet. It quickly went viral, climbing to over one million YouTube views within a week. People were outraged. The Columbia Police Department was swamped with phone calls and emails, and its officers were condemned, cursed, and scolded.”

These are the consequences for what the Enterprise is cavalierly arguing are “military-grade threats out there that demand a military-grade response.” Have they weighed the downside risks of the militarization of police before pushing forward with this viewpoint, or are they simply acting in a knee-jerk reflexive fashion to an incident that at least outwardly seems to have proceeded without huge drawbacks?

They double-down on this with a cynical and unsubstantiated attack on Robb Davis, Dan Wolk and Lucas Frerichs, stating, “Whatever else comes out of this tragedy, we hope our representatives have learned that prioritizing Davis’ image over the safety of its citizens and, especially, its police officers is a bad idea.”

In so doing, they disparage much of the community, as well, who have concerns about the militarization of the police and the fit of this vehicle in our community.

The Enterprise forgets – largely because they didn’t bother to cover it – that the Davis Police Department is fallible. It was not long ago a raid on Royal Oak – where this issue was raised when armored vehicles failed – relied on a search warrant where the officer screwed up the address.

Fortunately, the officer was involved in the raid and led the SWAT response to the correct location, but imagine had that not occurred and the SWAT raided some poor retired couple’s home, ransacked it, only to realize that they had raided the wrong address. But the Enterprise does not consider the downside of the policies they seem to blindly support.

The Enterprise continues: “Cheers to the Davis Police Department’s response to the incident. Our local cops handled what could have been an immensely dangerous situation coolly and professionally. Their priorities were to ensure the safety of everyone around the scene and to end the threat as efficiently as possible.”

They then continue, “Their use of technology was especially noteworthy, from identifying the suspect through social media to — once those out-of-town MRAPS were in place — sending in a robot to break down the door of the dwelling. It was a sterling job, all around.”

Perhaps, but identifying the suspect through social media has become almost routine. Over the last five years, police and investigators have become adept at using social media as part of their evidence against defendants in court.

In this case, their use of social media perhaps led them to deploy the MRAP in the first place. A thin reed to begin with, that suggested there might possibly be assault weapons in the possession of the assailant. It turns out no such weapon was found and this discovery ended up prolonging the event. To what end? That remains an open question unexplored in the congratulatory column by the local paper.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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39 thoughts on “Commentary: Paper Praises Police, Blasts Council on MRAP”

  1. Barack Palin

    In so doing, the disparage much of the community as well who have concerns about the militarization of the police and the fit of this vehicle in our community.

    I’m one of the community and I agree with the Enterprise.

      1. Barack Palin

        That’s right, exactly, and there’s many more that agree that the police acted professionally.  I know you don’t like that but deal with it.

    1. zaqzaq

      I also agree with the enterprise and think that David’s position is out of touch with the majority residents in Davis.  Still listening for any member of the CC criticize the DPD for the use of the MRAPs.  All I hear is silence.

      1. Ann Block

        David, it appears that most of your commenters, as usual, are those that are out of step with the majority of Davis.  As I understand it, not everyone commenting regularly even LIVES in Davis.  I know of NOONE in my neighborhood nor anyone that I have talked to that lives in Davis that supports having an MRAP in Davis.  Those MRAPs brought in were only a few blocks from where I am, and they did not make me feel safer — rather the contrary.   How many civilians have been killed accidentally in war zones because those inside MRAPs, tanks and the like could not clearly distinguish the difference between civilian noncombatants and combatants?  I and many others, including my young daughter, walk our dog a half block away on the greenbelt near where the tragedy occurred the the MRAPs were deployed.  The MRAPs made me feel less safe, not more safe.  And I have yet to understand how an MRAP really does help protect police.  If a shooter was alive in that house, and never came out, would the MRAP have been used to bulldoze the house down?  Don’t think its equipped for that, and don’t think our Constitution allows for that anyway.  So someone would have still needed to go into the house at some point to confront the shooter, without the MRAP, and the tear gas and flash bangs would have been used, which could have been done at the very beginning….without any MRAPs.  I too am disappointed by the “Emptyprize” as Barack Palin has so appropriately termed it on other occasions.   No critical thinking there, and not much here either.  As others have commented, including David, I don’t think the police department was even ever in agreement about deploying an MRAP in Davis, and there are many better ways to protect our police.

        1. Davis Progressive

          this is a great post.  i think the vanguard is a little skewed by the five prolific right wing posters who represent perhaps 25% of the davis population.  by way of example obama in 2012 got about 78% of the vote in davis compared to 18% for romney.  and yet we know how these right wingers voted and yet they believe they are somehow representative of the city?  come on.  it’s absurd.

        2. Barack Palin

          Funny, but I’ve discussed this with most of my neighbors and they are of the same opinion as I.  They feel that there is a small contingent of activists that have the council’s ear and not really representative of the Davis population.  Not all Obama voters are on board with the anti-Mrap bunch, take Michelle Millet as an example who I’ll bet voted for Obama.  To say that Davis is against having an MRAP without a vote or a fairly instituted poll is well, absurd.

        3. Barack Palin

          i think the vanguard is a little skewed by the five prolific right wing posters

          LOL, well I think the Vanguard is a little skewed by the same 5 or 6 prolific left wing posters.  And that’s 5 or 6 not taking into account that some may have double profiles.

        4. Michelle Millet

          If I asked my neighbors/friends how they felt  about this issue my guess is that the largest response I got would be something along the lines of, “the M what?”

  2. LadyNewkBahm

    “The Enterprise is out of step here not only with community discourse and sentiment, but national ones too.Last June, an ACLU report…..”
    as if the ACLU represents the country at large.

  3. zaqzaq

    The overreach regarding the search warrant with the incorrect address followed by a what if was rather pathetic.  How about a what if they did not use the MRAPs and an officer was shot?  The appropriate evaluation is the information available when the decision is made.  Based on the information on hand was the use of SWAT and MRAPs appropriate?

    The more important issue is how has DPD used SWAT and the armored vehicles in the recent past.  Didn’t they recover a large quantity of weapons from inside the residence on the Royal Oak raid.  The SWAT tactics used in the execution of that search warrant were clearly appropriate.

      1. zaqzaq

        They raided the right house while using SWAT and armored vehicles.  There was nothing wring with the tactics.  The wrong address on the search warrant has nothing to do with the tactics used to conduct the serach/raid.  You are grasping at straws.  That is pathetic.  It does not in any way support your policy argument on the alleged militarization of the police.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          My point was that with the wrong address on the warrant, they easily could have raided the wrong home and subjected an innocent party to a very disruptive search. The ACLU and Radley Balko reports cite such examples in their reports showing the collateral damage caused by militarization.

        2. Barack Palin

          My point was that with the wrong address on the warrant, they easily could have raided the wrong home and subjected an innocent party to a very disruptive search. 

          So in this case you want to cite what could’ve happened but at the same time say that the MRAP’s weren’t needed and overlook the fact that there could’ve been an active shooter in the recent incident?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I thought about your point as I dropped off the kids.

            On the one hand, I think you raise a reasonable point that there are risks on both sides of this equation – on the one hand safety to the officers and the public. On the other hand on the risk of encroachment on liberty as well as safety to the officers and the public.

            I’m a little uncomfortable equating the risk in a mistake to the risk in assessing the situation. After all, we could argue that if you drove drunk without your driver’s license and avoided calamity, it does not excuse the error. That’s quite a bit different from the risk involved in this situation of it becoming an active shooter situation based on a report of shots fired and a vague Facebook post.

  4. DanH

    Babies flash-banged. A mom with a baby in her arms is shot. Cops using bad language. Wounded dogs whimpering in agony.

    Oh, my.

    It occurred to me last night while watching reruns of Trailer Park Boys on Netflix. I am part of the problem. I was raised as a Navy brat boomer. I been done militarized by dubyadubya 2 and never knew it. I’m out.

  5. Frankly

    I think David has gone a little “frankly” over the Enterprise article.  On the one hand I appreciate the frankness and the one-sided-positioning because it helps motivate the counterpoints when then help everyone to see both sides of the topic.

    They double-down on this with a cynical and unsubstantiated attack on Robb Davis, Dan Wolk and Lucas Frerichs, stating, “Whatever else comes out of this tragedy, we hope our representatives have learned that prioritizing Davis’ image over the safety of its citizens and, especially, its police officers is a bad idea.”

    I think David is missing a very key point here.  He brings up the mistakes made by police using SWAT tactics and tools… but then what if these three CC members made a mistake?  What if we have a situation where people are harmed or killed because the city PD lacked this MRAP tool that was available for free and rejected only because of symbolism?  The article from the enterprise is just a taste of what would come in accusation if and when that would occur.  If you were on the side of returning the MRAP, you better have a contingency plan to pull up your big boy pants and accept responsibility for YOUR mistake.

    There has been a lot of debate on this topic… thousands and thousands of words written.  After reading these words, I have come to the conclusion that there are two general camps of opposing views.  I see one camp frustrated that the world is not a more loving, giving, caring and less aggressive place… and blames the father for setting a bad example and opines for the mother to take over.  The other camp is frustrated too… but more so at the first camp for failing to accept the reality of the world that exists today, and for mistakenly pushing their dominate mothering model on society while also failing to accept responsibility for the problems it causes… problems it causes for the fathering model primarily.

    The mothering camp is more reactionary over the issue of top-down harm and unfairness but tends to not give enough weight to bottom-up behavior except in more extreme cases.

    The fathering camp is more reactionary over bottom-up behavior and tends to discount the concern about abuse of power unless it is malicious and unreasonable.

    As with everything in life there is a need to strike a balance.

    But from my perspective, that balance needs to be (unfortunately) more on the dominant fathering side.

    The US is a unique country.  It is not Norway or Finland despite the utopian dreams of the dominant mothering camp.  It is the third most populated country on the planet.  It is the most diverse.  It is the wealthiest.  It is the most multilaterally integrated.  There is not much cultural glue holding us all together.  We are not a cohesive family other than the shared love of a country that provides us opportunity to have a great life.

    Basically the US is a “great mess” that individually demands and rewards productive independence and competition.  The benefits of this are more than apparent… the US has rocketed forward as the most prosperous and successful nation in the history of mankind.  The cost is the social malaise derived from part of the population that don’t fit well with the model… either because they have not developed enough, don’t get it, or are just not wired for it.

    What has happened over the last 15 years is those not wired for it have multiplied and taken over politics.  And they are forcing a dominant mother model.  And it is not working.  It is not working because the US is not Europe and never can be.  And even Europe is beginning to recognize the sustainability problem with the dominant mother model.

    Davis has been a dominant mother bubble.  It is an unsustainable bubble.  The MRAP is a tool that fits in the dominant father model… and mother is throwing a fit about it.

    Unfortunately, in this case, father knows best.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “I think David is missing a very key point here.  He brings up the mistakes made by police using SWAT tactics and tools… but then what if these three CC members made a mistake?  What if we have a situation where people are harmed or killed because the city PD lacked this MRAP tool that was available for free and rejected only because of symbolism?  The article from the enterprise is just a taste of what would come in accusation if and when that would occur.  If you were on the side of returning the MRAP, you better have a contingency plan to pull up your big boy pants and accept responsibility for YOUR mistake.”

      the city council is elected to make tough calls like this – just as other elected bodies are.  they are just that elected bodies – they are answerable to the people. the public can vote them out if they disagree.  they are accountable.  part of the problem we see in the police militarization literature is that the police often are not held accountable for their mistakes.  california law shields them in a lot of ways.

      also i really take issue with this mother-father stuff, it’s sexist and outdated in a lot of ways.

      1. Davis Progressive

        “I think David has gone a little “frankly” over the Enterprise article.”

        btw, it’s nice to see a bit of the “old” vanguard coming out, i miss those days.

      2. Frankly

        also i really take issue with this mother-father stuff, it’s sexist and outdated in a lot of ways.

        LOL.  Isn’t that ironic?

        Don’t know why it is sexist given that it isn’t gender-specific.  I think you better explain yourself.

        1. Barack Palin

          it seems to imply father-male-strong mother-female-weak

          There you go again, you know what everyone is implying.  Are you a mind reader?

        2. Frankly

          It has nothing to do with gender, but you might find there is a gender majority in the side that dominates.  The military is father-dominant.  Law enforcement is father-dominant.  The education system is and has been mother-dominated and has grown much more mother-dominant.  Liberals are trying to make the military and law enforcement and basically all of society more mother-dominant.   Conservative would like for liberals to stop doing that because it makes a mess of things.  There is a need for balance, but there is also a need for certain institutions to lean one way or the other.

          The MRAP is the tool of an institution that must be father-dominated, but liberals are trying to subjugate it with their mothering approach.  It does not work.  It will just make for more injured and dead innocent people and cops.

          Note that some of the strongest father-dominate practitioners I know are women.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I don’t get it – father and mother are terms that denote gender in addition to parental role.

      3. Alan Miller

        “i really take issue with this mother-father stuff, it’s sexist and outdated in a lot of ways.”

        What are you talking about, and what does that MEAN?

    2. Tia Will

      Frankly

      Basically the US is a “great mess” that individually demands and rewards productive independence and competition.  The benefits of this are more than apparent… the US has rocketed forward as the most prosperous and successful nation in the history of mankind.  

      This is true if all you value is more material wealth, more technology, more consumption. If you value anything that is not material, let’s say more happiness, more freedom ( hard to claim that when we have a much higher rate of incarceration than any other comparable country), more peace, more collaboration, more health…. then the United States is far from exceptional. We have much that we could learn and adapt from those countries that you claim are so different from us as to not be comparable.

      I do not buy into your weak mother, strong father model and never have. I raised my children alone, hardly a task for sissies or the “weak” and know many, many other strong women who have done the same. A fundamental difference between you and I is that you seem to define “strength” in a bullying, punishing, macho manner. I see these tactics and the willingness to use more force than is necessary not as strength but as representative of an individual or group that is so weak or ill prepared that it needs to resort to violence to get its way. A truly strong individual  or group would rarely find themselves in the need to use force, the sole exception being the immediate threat of physical violence. We are a very violent society and nation. I see this as neither a sign of real strength and certainly not of the type of “exceptionalism” that I would want to claim.

      1. Frankly

        Sounds like you were a strong mother, not a weak mother.

        I subscribe to the common cultural standard of developmental progression from mother’s-child, father’s-child and then adult (read Joseph Campbell).  I see problems with the second step being diminished and hence the third step not occurring.  Campbell lamented this in Western cultures… and it has grown worse since that time.   And as a result, many “smart” people mistakenly trying to compensate with more of the first step… more weak mothering… and then making the problem worse.

        We are a very violent society primarily because of childish behavior of adult-age people.  The root of most of this is the lack of strong parenting, or the lack of a father that helps move the child to a well-functioning adult.  That was my point, it is the cops that are having to deal with all of this.  You and other misdirect your ire at them instead of the root of the problems in our society failing to develop well-functioning adults.   You are (pun intended) shooting the messenger.

        And then there are truly crazy people and terrorists that have access to high-powered weapons and periodically use them to kill innocent people.

        1. Tia Will

          Frankly

          The root of most of this is the lack of strong parenting, or the lack of a father that helps move the child to a well-functioning adult.”

          I do not believe in the male vs female or father vs mother dichotomy that you frequently espouse, even as a model.

          From our many previous conversations about this topic, I believe that we have a fundamentally different perception of what constitutes strength. I believe that true strength does not need a show of force or fear to obtain the best behavior either from children or adults. True strength is dependent upon demonstration of the best behavior in any situation. Once one has to resort to force, one has already conceded that they are acting from a position of relative weakness and thus must up the ante to obtain the desired behavior. It is weakness and failure, not strength, that is demonstrated by the use of brute force.

          This is true at all levels. The use of spanking or physical punishment is only resorted to when the parent has failed to  teach, coach and demonstrate appropriate behaviors. Domestic violence occurs when the perpetrator feels that they must enforce their dominance, meaning that they are not achieving their desired behaviors through appropriate interactions. Police need to use force only when they have lost control or fear that they are losing control of a situation. We go to war only when diplomatic or collaborative efforts have failed.

          Violence, or the threat thereof, is an admission of failure, not a sign of strength.

  6. Tia Will

    “Whatever else comes out of this tragedy, we hope our representatives have learned that prioritizing Davis’ image over the safety of its citizens and, especially, its police officers is a bad idea.”

    I feel strongly that whatever else comes out of this tragedy, some honesty will emerge.

    1) No one prioritized Davis’ image over the safety of anyone.

    2) The police themselves have presented a much more complex picture than some would like to pretend about the value ( or lack thereof of the MRAPs in our community

    3) No one has demonstrated that the MRAPs were in any way useful in this particular instance. So as I am writing, we don’t know the facts of the situation. Were the MRAPs useful ?  Did their deployment make any difference to the outcome ?  Did the decision to deploy them cost significant time in entry that could have made a difference ? Did their deployment save anyone’s life ?  What was the financial cost of this operation ? What would a similar action only without the MRAPs have cost ?

    4) There has been criticism of the three members of the CC regarding their position on the MRAP. Wouldn’t it be nice to have actual information showing whether the MRAPs actually had a beneficial effect before vilifying or praising anyone for their decision making ?

    We are seeing a lot of heat and emotionalism and finger pointing given the paucity of information that we have about what, if any effect, using the MRAPs actually had in this situation. I would suggest that as part of the ongoing evaluation of what would actually be best for the provision of optimal safety for our citizens and police, that we stop focusing on what makes the citizens and / or police “feel safer” and start focusing on what techniques, equipment and strategy have actually been shown to be associated with less injuries and deaths in the urban setting. Would actual information be too much to ask for before judgement ?

     

    1. DanH

      1) No one prioritized Davis’ image over the safety of anyone.

      -Agreed.

      2) The police themselves have presented a much more complex picture than some would like to pretend about the value ( or lack thereof of the MRAPs in our community.

      -Partial agreement. DPD does not consider the MRAP to be the best choice for Davis. However, DPD places a high value on acquiring a reliable armored vehicle for the SWAT team. DPD has been asking for one for many years. The MRAP was a compromised choice made due to lack of funding.

      3) No one has demonstrated that the MRAPs were in any way useful in this particular instance. So as I am writing, we don’t know the facts of the situation. Were the MRAPs useful ?  Did their deployment make any difference to the outcome ?  Did the decision to deploy them cost significant time in entry that could have made a difference ? Did their deployment save anyone’s life ?  What was the financial cost of this operation ? What would a similar action only without the MRAPs have cost ?

      -Partial agreement. The MRAPs were not required for protective armor but they were on site if the need arose. MRAPs did not alter the outcome of the crime, neither did any of the equipment DPD brought to the scene including patrol cars, radios and guns. The victims died instantly before police arrived.  Deployment of the MRAPs provided valuable training for the SWAT teams and DPD. Costs are unknown. MRAPS are heavy and guzzle fuel.

      4) There has been criticism of the three members of the CC regarding their position on the MRAP. Wouldn’t it be nice to have actual information showing whether the MRAPs actually had a beneficial effect before vilifying or praising anyone for their decision making ?

      -Disagree. Skepticism is a healthy approach to politics. Law enforcement and military have provided countless testimonials regarding lives saved by vehicular armor, including MRAPs.

  7. Napoleon Pig IV

    “3) No one has demonstrated that the MRAPs were in any way useful in this particular instance. So as I am writing, we don’t know the facts of the situation. Were the MRAPs useful ?  Did their deployment make any difference to the outcome ?  Did the decision to deploy them cost significant time in entry that could have made a difference ? Did their deployment save anyone’s life ?  What was the financial cost of this operation ? What would a similar action only without the MRAPs have cost ?”

    Tia, these are the key questions, and you’ve summarized them quite well. I’m an old cynic who doesn’t expect to ever get full answers with sufficient transparency to be credible, but I’m happy to be wrong. I’m waiting for some brilliant politician to introduce legislation making it illegal to possess anti-robot technology. Such waiting is not at all incompatible with a desire for the safety of hard-working police officers. If they were safer and better respected for the importance of their jobs, the domestic arms race might be less driven by the egos of politicians (3 of our CC members excepted, of course) and the personal ambitions of administrators. Oink!

  8. mkaney

    Admittedly, I am not a resident of Davis anymore and have not been for many many years.  However, I think people need to consider some FACTUAL information.  The homocide rate in the United States is not increasing, in fact it is DECREASING.  It is currently at it’s lowest level since the 1960s.  The overall rate of homocide in the United States has, in fact, been decreasing since the 1700s.  The number and rate of officer deaths while on duty, from ALL causes including accidents, has also been decreasing.  http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/year.html?print=t

    Police officers are not even the top 20 of most dangerous jobs.  So despite your personal PERCEPTION, there is very little rationale for continuing to ramp up the powers of the police and the equipment they use.  And that is what most of the pro-MRAP arguments here seem to lack.. is SOUND reasoning based on FACTUAL information.  They are just arguing with safety cliche’s and feelings about their personal comfort level and their false perceptions of America.

     

     

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