The Vanguard will have more specific thoughts on the police acquisition of a military vehicle and whether that is a sign of the militarization of the police force this weekend, but there is a troubling thread of commonality that runs through two of the major stories from Wednesday and that is: who exactly is running this city right now?
This is a city manager model of governance and the city has been run by interim city manager Gene Rogers, so it is understandable that things may not run nearly as smoothly as they might have under a permanent city manager. This clearly underscores both the priority and urgency of the council hiring a new city manager as soon as reasonably possible.
Still, we should be troubled when a city councilmember states, as Lucas Frerichs did, “I was extremely surprised to learn of, (after it’s delivery), this recent acquisition of an armored vehicle, by the Davis Police Department.”
Mayor Wolk was more blunt, stating, “I can’t imagine why Davis needs a tank. It’s in a city garage and I hope it stays there.”
Police Chief Landy Black had a thoughtful and thorough briefing on the issue. He explained that in 2009, the Davis City Council issued Resolution 09-033 which renewed the authorization for the Davis Police Department “to acquire surplus federal/military equipment suitable for use in conventional law enforcement activities through the 1033 Program of the Defense Logistics Agency, Law Enforcement Support Office (DLA/LESO).”
“The 1033 Program was established to convert/re-purpose surplus federal/military equipment to local law enforcement use. The program is administered here in California by the Office of Emergency Services (OES).”
In his explanation, he noted, “We will hopefully never benefit from its mine resistance capabilities, but its ambush (ballistic) protection makes it the perfect platform to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during such active-shooter incidents, and to more safely deliver officers into any active-shooter incidents, barricaded hostage crises, and/or other or environments involving armed offenders.”
We get that the police believe that there are specific uses that would justify this acquisition. We also get that there are many in the community that question those justifications. That is a policy question that we must hash out.
However, we get a bit more concerned that a police spokesperson told a local news station that the vehicle could be used to serve high risk warrants “where we know people are armed and dangerous.”
It does not take a lot to conjure up recent images where tanks were deployed by law enforcement at peaceful protests where their presence was intimidating and was rationalized by the police on both occasions as being because they had “information that dangerous people might be present in the crowd.”
Our biggest concern is the apparent lack of procedural guidance here – this is Davis, the community is sensitive to the issue of military weaponry. This was a nuclear free zone in a bygone era. While legally authorized, perhaps, through the 2009 resolution, there is a political tin ear to the concerns that have cropped up across the country to the militarization of the police – long before anyone knew where Ferguson, Missouri, was.
At the same time, more information came out regarding the leak in the pool. It was rather surprising to see city officials on CBS 13 making the city look rather lackadaisical about what appears to be a rather startling amount of water leaking out of a community pool – at a time when there is a community discussion over funding options.
City officials acknowledge the leak, acknowledge that they have known about it for some time, and acknowledge that it is not just a simple fix.
City staffer Melissa Chaney told the news station, “It was a little bit more than normal evaporation, so that’s what brought it to our attention.”
The station reports, “City engineers agree with swim instructor Stu Hahn’s assessment that cracks in the pool’s skimmers are the reason for the lost water.”
“It’s not a single leak that they’ve identified,” he said. “It’s throughout the whole system.”
“Every time waves splash through, a little bit of water comes out but over the course of the day we use this pool 12 hours a day for swimming so there is a lot of waves and unfortunately there is a lot of loss,” he said.
They asked Melissa Chaney if the water soaking into the ground would damage the soil. She responded, “The water itself will not damage the soil underneath, it’s safe. We make our own chlorine from salt, so we don’t put out a high level of chlorine into the water.”
They note that the leak issue has been out of sight for some time, but with the drought, the issue is pushing to the forefront.
CBS 13 reported, “If the city just drains the pool, the structure could become compromised and leave the city with the decision to either close it permanently” or build a new pool.
My first thought is why is Melissa Chaney, who is primarily the city’s HR Director, making statements to the press about pools. You would expect either the city manager or someone with more technical expertise.
The fact that the pool was leaking was itself leaked to the Vanguard a few weeks ago. The distinct impression was given at that time that it was a guarded secret and we could get no official word or confirmation.
This is not a small issue – the city has to figure out funding options for a parcel tax and the assessment here could determine how much of a parcel tax the city asks for.
We have critical issues facing the city, but now, twice in the span of two days, the city has less than flattering news that was broadcast regionally. The timing could not have been worse on either issue.
The only real answer is to find a good city manager who can get the city back on track.
—David M. Greenwald reporting