A little over two years after the acquisition of an MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle) by the Davis Police Department – which caused a huge outpouring of criticism of them for acquiring the vehicle, unbeknownst to the council, and ultimately led to not one but two votes to return the vehicle in the fall of 2014 – the Yolo County Sheriff is making the request to acquire its own vehicle.
Unlike the situation in Davis, this will be done with a full discussion of the County Board of Supervisors and transparency.
The item will come before the board next week at their Tuesday meeting. The staff report notes, “The National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 allows for the transfer of excess Department of Defense property, that might otherwise be destroyed, to law enforcement agencies across the United States and its territories for use in counter drug and terrorism activities.
“Through the LESO (Law Enforcement Support Office) Program, local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) can search and request excess equipment online through the Defense Logistics Agency’s property search application,” the report notes. “No equipment is purchased through LESO, all items are held as reserve stocks by the Federal government until no longer needed. The LEA’s ability to participate is certified by a state coordinator at the Office of Emergency Services. Permission to apply for this certification is now being requested.
“If approved, the Sheriff’s Office is interested in acquiring a MRAP vehicle,” the county notes. “This will be used to safely respond to scenes where approach in a vehicle that can withstand explosive devices is necessary. These situations can include active shooters, hostage rescue, bomb threats, natural disasters, and other critical incidents.”
They explain, “Main use of the vehicle would be by the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, but would also be available to support the multi-jurisdictional Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team as well as any other incorporated cities and outlying agencies upon request. Board approval to accept this vehicle, if awarded, is also being sought at this time.”
During a community discussion held in November 2014, then-Assistant Police Chief Darren Pytel explained, “The MRAP is a mine resistant armored vehicle, basically it’s ambush protection. So it’s rated to stop rifle rounds, high powered weaponry and explosives.”
For the Davis Police, if they had to use a SWAT team or do a raid, they would have armor protection. The soft-body armor that they have does not protect them from some of the rounds that they see.
The vehicle is about 20 feet long and 9 feet high and can fit a SWAT team of eight, which can quickly deploy out of the rear of the vehicle. “Our plan was to do rapid exit from the vehicle when we needed to get close to a situation where we wanted to deploy our SWAT team.”
The city police ended up bringing in two MRAPs from other jurisdictions (one being the one transferred from Davis to Woodland, the other from West Sacramento) in March 2015 in response to what they thought was a potential hostage situation, but turned out to be a murder-suicide.
According to the staff report from the county, “There is no cost to the Sheriff’s Office to apply for certification in the LESO Program, and no equipment will be purchased through the LESO Program. Should the Sheriff’s Office be awarded an MRAP vehicle, any outfitting or repair costs will be built into the regular budget cycle. The Sheriff’s Office will return for Board approval if any equipment associated with the MRAP vehicle over the fixed asset threshold needs to be purchased.”
This request comes at a time when the new Trump administration may be looking to beef up the deployment of militarized police forces. Following the over-response at Ferguson, Obama issued Executive Order 13688 which greatly restricted the provision of military equipment to local police departments as well as creating oversight mechanisms for its use.
However, following shootings in San Bernardino and Dallas, Republican House Members and local sheriffs criticized the mandate, believing it put security and local law enforcement at a disadvantage.
Donald Trump as a candidate pledged to remove these barriers. However, to date, President Trump has not issued an executive order rescinding the Obama policy.
—David M. Greenwald reporting