Sunday Commentary: The Community Has Spoken on MRAP


The Davis City Council on Tuesday voted to return the MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle). While we can argue about whether that was a wise decision, I really don’t believe the council had any choice. The overwhelming sentiment in the community has been shock and disbelief that we would think we needed the weapon.

I can understand the view of both Brett Lee and Rochelle Swanson that we might want to examine all elements over the next four weeks before making a final decision. I think both recognized the problematic process involved in getting the vehicle without consulting with council first, and did not want to replicate the mistake in the other direction.

That said, I think – from the standpoint of the community – there was never going to be a point where the community accepted the vehicle’s presence and it threatened to become a distraction from other, frankly more pressing, needs. So, from that standpoint, the right decision was made by council.

On Thursday, during the Davis Human Relations Commission Meeting, Assistant Chief Darren Pytel noted that there have not been any recent officer involved shootings in Davis nor any recent officer fatalities. It is not that it cannot happen, as we saw in the last ten years with both CHP Officer Andy Stevens and Sheriff’s Deputy Tony Diaz in Yolo County, but it is not a frequent happening and in neither of those cases would possession of an MRAP have made any difference.

That is really where I not only disagree with a column by Jeff Neithercutt in the local paper, but take exception to over-the-top hyperbolic rhetoric.

He argues, “Don’t sentence our police to death,” implying the existence of an imminent threat that would be solved with the MRAP.

He writes, “By definition, our police are a reactive force. Police do not invade your home, they come when you call them. Police do not hunt protesters, they come to protests to protect the protesters from the idiots who come to the protests bent on violent acts because they believe our leaders aren’t responding quickly enough to peaceful protests.”

While an interesting point, it actually does not square with police conduct where, at times, the police have mishandled protests and created problems where none existed. Look no further than November 18, 2011, on the UCD Quad, where the police turned what would have been a harmless protest into an incident that was a national embarrassment.

Mr. Neithercutt notes, “When police are called to react to a situation, they must respond, assess the threat, gather resources and attempt to protect all parties’ rights, even if that means taking insults from peacefully but vocally protesting citizens. Where it gets out of hand is when they start taking bottles filled with urine, or rocks or lighted road flares.”

He asks, “Do we expect them to just stand there and be injured?” So he believes the appropriate response to a protest is for police to arrive in the MRAP? Does he not understand that the presence of such a vehicle would not only intimidate peaceful protesters but inflame the passions of those who already do not trust the government and police? Does he not understand that the best way for police to handle those situations is to pull back and that a single vehicle isn’t going to change the fact that most officers will have to stand out at a protest in riot gear with shields and other protection?

“Why would our leaders give the brave men and women at the Davis Police Department, who willingly go out every day wearing a big target on their backs for each and every one of us, a death sentence? That’s what it really is, folks.”

And yet the police do that all the time and the MRAP is not going to change any of that. A single MRAP vehicle may give police some cover at times, but, for the most part, police are still going to be vulnerable in a highly-charged situation.

He continues, “If we return this defensive weapon, which is the only thing between the brave folks at DPD and some maniac with an AK-47, we are sentencing those officers to death. Their soft body armor will not even slow down the high-powered rounds being fired by almost every mass shooting suspect.”

He adds, “And we can all agree that after more than 300 rounds were fired, and 14 police vehicles were hit more than 10 times by high-powered weaponry in Stockton, it’s not a matter of if, people, but when.”

But here’s the problem, it is a matter of “if” in that it has not happened in Davis and, indeed, it does not happen in most communities.

Moreover, he cites the incident in Stockton. Well the Stockton police have access to military vehicles, but they were not helpful in the recent bank robbery because that became a high speed pursuit and the MRAP is not going to be involved in such a situation. So there is a clear case where having an MRAP would have made absolutely no difference.

He concludes his piece arguing, “Give the SWAT officers time to negotiate, give them a place to safely block the bullets of the madman while negotiations continue, rather than forcing them to kill the gunman as quickly as possible to save their own lives. Do not sentence our officers to death just because you think their ARV is ugly.

“Shame on our City Council majority for sentencing our officers to great bodily injury and death just because they can’t stomach what is happening in every community around us. It’s coming here, folks, and I, for one, pray the Davis Police Department has an ARV when it gets here.”

Mr. Neithercutt misses a lot of points here. The community did not sentence our officers to great bodily injury or death. The community did not oppose the MRAP because they thought it was ugly.

The problem that people had was that the vehicle, as Robb Davis put it, “symbolizes the most destructive force on the planet which is the US Military.” More importantly, it symbolizes blurring the critical lines between civilian police and military power that threatens to reduce our ability to be free, in the name of safety and security – and really, in most situations, only the appearance of safety and security.

The council majority did not sentence our officers to either great bodily injury or death, but they didn’t make this decision because they couldn’t stomach what is happening in surrounding communities. They did it because this community did not want the MRAP and had they persisted in keeping it, the voters would have put an initiative on the ballot and gotten rid of it themselves.

I listened very carefully to Landy Black and Darren Pytel on their reasoning. It was an eye opener to see the cachet of weapons found in this community, but, in the end, I think the chance that we will need the vehicle and that it will be useful is far exceeded by the idea that the vehicle will never be used and, if it is used, it will be used in situations that could have been handled better.

I appreciate the Chief’s explanation on mission creep and the reluctance of police to use tools of this sort, but I have also seen the proliferation of the use of Tasers where they were not needed.

I think there are so few situations where the MRAP is actually needed that we ought to be much more worried about the trend of police militarization and the encroachment on civil liberties. We did not sentence police to death or injury, we have simply said that, in our community, military weapons will not be acceptable.

Mr. Neithercutt would have been better advised to have come to council at the time of the decision to present his ideas, rather than offering them up after the decision has already been made.  The community on Tuesday night really has spoken.

—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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146 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: The Community Has Spoken on MRAP”

        1. Michelle Millet

          Details. They could bring weapons in. Oh wait they can bring weapons into any vehicle. The difference being unlike patrol vehicle the MRAP actually offers them protection from people who use weapons against them. We wouldn’t that happening.

          1. Tia Will

            BP and Michelle

            “It wasn’t a weapon.”

            It isn’t a weapon only in the most literal sense. Much like a gun without a bullet safely stored in a collators locked case is not a weapon. The concern that many of us expressed is that it is almost instantly converted into a weapon. The moment armed officers are placed inside, it becomes a conveyance for weaponry. Michelle’s point that this is also true of a squad car is absolutely correct. What it misses is the potential for intimidation of innocent folks such as peaceful protestors, or perhaps the misreading of a situation by the police such as happened in 2011 on our campus.

            Police are humans and just like the rest of us are capable of making errors in judgment and execution. This is what happened on the UCD campus in 2011. The situation was misjudged by both the civilian and the police leadership. The wrong equipment was chosen for the wrong purpose and used by an untrained individual at the wrong distance. With such a clear series of errors in judgment, how can anyone say that this is not a realistic scenario for recurrence ?

            We are all united in our desire for the safety of our police, first responders and everyone else in our community. Where we differ is in our belief that this vehicle represents the best means to optimize that safety.

          2. Michelle Millet

            So should we rid police of everything that has the chance of being used inappropriately?

        1. Barack Palin

          It’s just armor on wheels for protection of the officers and the public if ever needed. It’s you and your friends that just don’t get it. If we sadly ever do have a situation where we lose someone where this vehicle could’ve saved a life then that will fall back squarely on those that were part of denying our police force of this protection vehicle.

        2. BrianRiley429

          BP, the odds would have been far far greater that someone would be injured or lose their life *due to* the MRAP being introduced into our community. If you’re going to talk about odds, then you have to look at the entire picture.

          1. Matt Williams

            Brian, what are those odds … one in a million? … one in ten million? … one in one hundred million? Any increase in such infinitesimally small odds is not statistically meaningful.

          2. BrianRiley429

            I’m deliberately skipping over some posts and not reading or responding to them. The person in question has already been informed that he is persona non grata with me.

        3. Matt Williams

          You don’t get it Brian. Human beings are not weapons, and human beings are the components of a police force. You are demonizing the police and very specifically the police chief to satisfy your personal anti-authority agenda. Is that because you were on the scene when the UCD pepper spraying took place?

  1. Michelle Millet

    Portlandia couldn’t write this stuff. Davis should have its own series. On second thought, never mind, people would get their feelings hurt, start writing letters to the Enterprise and complaining at council meetings and we they would have to stop airing the show, even the most people in the community probably think the entire thing is being blown way out of proportion.

      1. Michelle Millet

        B. Nice has been over powered by her alter ego B. Snarky. I try and keep her in check but in situations like these, where there is much good material to work with, she takes over.

    1. South of Davis

      Michelle wrote:

      > Portlandia couldn’t write this stuff.

      The Portlandia writers would never have thought outside the box to have a left leaning zero waste Davis woman lead the charge to bring a tank to a left leaning town. The point is just like we don’t need a former Navy sub in Lake Alhambra or Stonegate Lake (or a bigger former Navy nuclear powered sub in Lake Berryessa) we don’t “need” a MRAP in Davis.

      The MRAP is great in a “war zone” littered with mines (I’ll probably change my mind about the thing id Al-Queda and ISIS start placing IEDs all over town) but we have no use for is in Davis since crazy guys with guns rarely (I can think of just ONE time in 40 years) just walk around in the open where the thing will be any use. If the city thinks passing the next parcel tax will be tough it will be even tougher when people find out we are flushing even more money down the rat hole for a “toY’ that will never be used (except when the cops want to look “tough” or play G.I. Joe…

      1. Michelle Millet

        It may be overstating it to say that I’m leading the charge. Would I have supported the city purchasing this vehicle? No. But it’s free, and we need to replace the current armored vehicle we are using. It falls into the “reuse” catagory.

          1. Michelle Millet

            I know it seems like a joke, but it’s true. It makes much sense to reuse an existing vehicle rather then purchase a new one. I could not care less that it was used by the military, which seems to be the sticking point for people. It offers protection beyond what our officers will likely need, but I still don’t understand why that it an issue either. Obtaining this vehicle seems like a very practical decision on the part of our police force.

  2. Edgar Wai

    At this point I feel that the police itself is not viewing the MRAP as something that is absolutely needed. If the police is not complaining, I think the other people don’t need to complain for them. That would make an issue out of a non issue.

    Maybe the police is willing to support the symbolism and become convinced to use alternate tactics.

    They tried to get the MRAP. The community clarified the vision. They use the alternatives. Not a big deal.

    1. Anon

      Sure it is a big deal. The police have made it very clear their old armored vehicle is so unreliable, it is not really viable anymore (broke down on the way to a potential shooting event). The police have also made it very clear that they need some sort of armored vehicle protection, because of the type of weapons criminals are using and have been recently confiscated from perpetrators of crime right here in Davis. Now the City Council has left itself in the unenviable position of choosing either to not protect the police, or waste thousands of dollars on a “politically correct” armored vehicles, altho I have no idea where the city would get the money for such an item.

      1. Edgar Wai

        I need some kind of signal from the police itself that they are still trying to keep the MRAP given that they now know the magnitude of the disagreement. Otherwise we are discussing a non-issue. I can’t just assume that the issue is still live. The victim has to affirm that the issue still exists.

          1. Don Shor

            I don’t think we’d be having this discussion at all if militarization of the police hadn’t been in the news rather dramatically via Ferguson recently.
            Also, I think the Vanguard gets credit for breaking this story.

          2. Alan Miller

            “I don’t think we’d be having this discussion at all if militarization of the police hadn’t been in the news rather dramatically via Ferguson recently.”

            I disagree 100%. I wasn’t watching Ferguson on TV during this time, I only heard about it 2nd hand, so I had no visuals of similar vehicles there. I was headed to the City Council meeting the moment I heard about this, because of 11-18. I know Ferguson came up with some people, but I assure you there would have been a large outpouring against this vehicle regardless.

        1. Anon

          I am not quite sure what you are driving at (pardon the pun). The police did ask for the MRAP, they ordered the thing, and the City Council has decided to send it back. So now the police have no armored protection bc their armored vehicle is so old (1970’s I believe the Police Chief said). That means the City Council needs to come up with the money to purchase a new armored vehicle (where does that money come from?) or leave the police completely vulnerable in a situation where the criminal uses a high powered weapon.

          1. Edgar Wai

            Sometimes people change their views. The meeting happened last Tuesday and the council made a decision. Since then I don’t know whether the police accepted the decision or that the police find it worth re-opening the issue.

            Each decision carries its responsibility. The supporters of getting rid of the MRAP are responsible for providing a solution with equivalent value to the police. Fairness does not stop at the decision.

            The responsibility of returning the MRAP might include:

            1. Agreeing to relief the police from the duty to handle a situation where the MRAP would be required until they get an MRAP from another agency, or unless the police officers volunteer to act on the situation without the required protection.

            2. Provide funding to fund the replacement vehicle or alternative tactics that do not involve an MRAP.

            3. Offer analytical assistance to analyze or simulate alternative tactics that do not involve an MRAP (The police does not need to accept this if they. We can’t force the police to listen to what we think in this situation.)

            4. Pledge situational cooperation to execute those alternative tactics.

            Thoughts that might not be directly related:

            When a person is consumed with grudge and rage, and tries to kill himself, but not before killing a lot of people, they tend to just shoot themselves the moment the police become on-scene. I assume that the reason is that they don’t want to be caught and they believe that they can’t outgun the police. The police does not need to shoot and kill him. A shot disabling him might ensure that the would be caught, and his objective to kill himself would fail.

            I do not know whether the MRAP would be relevant in such situation. Perhaps all it takes is to have officer on scene. (Not sure if having the shooter kill himself is the appropriate outcome.)

            The amount of rifles a suspect has is not directly related to the threat. One shooter can still only fire one rifle one shot at a time. Yes we saw a lot of guns confiscated, but at each incident, it is the number of shooters that would matter more. Given that the buildings in Davis aren’t that far apart, there are many places to have cover to surround and get close to the shooter.

            But ultimately, I do not know what it feels like to approach a shooter knowing that they could shoot at me and I am unprotected. Because of that, I don’t feel that I have the right to tell the police to return the MRAP.

            If the deciding matter is symbolism, one should only express the symbolism and hope the police to have the same view. I would not feel justified to take away their MRAP just because symbolism differs. Therefore, to me it is important to know whether the police had adopted the same symbolism (and the new mission to do things according to the vision), or that the police is having an unreasonable decision shoveled down the throat.

            I just don’t know whether someone is being coerced into doing something.

      2. South of Davis

        If the ever cops need an armored vehicle they can just call one of the many services that are in town every day picking up cash at stores and banks.

        1. Jim Frame

          If the ever cops need an armored vehicle they can just call one of the many services that are in town every day picking up cash at stores and banks.

          According to Chief Black’s testimony at the Council meeting, bank armored cars offer protection against handgun rounds, but not against high-powered rifle rounds.

        2. Edgar Wai

          I think according to the police, high power rifles can penetrate those armored money transfer vehicle.

          And that usage is not “free”. If it gets shot at, the police/the city would need to pay and fix it ASAP, because the company is presumably not going to continue to conduct its daily business with their vehicle bearing bullet holes, if the vehicle itself is not disabled because its engine was shot or tires punctured.

          On the other hand, the MRAP can be shot at and still operate. After one incident of being short at, the MRAP can sit back at its garage and there is no immediate need to fix its cosmetic damages.

  3. Anon

    I think it is a huge leap to assume the City Council’s decision squares with what the “community” wants. No one has any way of knowing how the community as a whole felt on this issue, as no vote or scientific poll was taken. Interestingly, the City Council has now promised to listen to the Police Dept’s need for protection. If the City Council turns down a request for a more “politically correct” armored vehicle, then it would appear there is no will to protect police officers in the line of fire, a dangerous political position. The more likely outcome is the city will waste $250,000 or more on a “politically correct” armored vehicle, to replace the now defunct one, but where the city is going to get the money to pay for it is anybody’s guess. And yet the city could have had an refitted armored vehicle for free – the Police Chief was trying to be fiscally responsible. Not only that, it is highly likely the military will not bother offering Davis anything more (heard this from a highly reputable source).

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I strongly disagree here. I’ve talked to too many people and have done this for long enough to know – even without polling – that the community is opposed to this by a very wide margin. This is not a close call.

      1. Michelle Millet

        This is a tough issue to accurately gauge community support. People seem to either hate the idea of us owning the vehicle or they are indifferent. Indifference rarely leads to community outcry, so it’s hard to gauge those numbers.

        I would agree that the majority of “politically engaged” in this community are opposed to the MRAP. In my circle of politically informed but not politically engaged friends (i.e. they aren’t the type to write letters to the editor of show up at meetings) very few have expressed concern with the police acquiring this vehicle or using it inappropriately.

        1. Frankly

          I was going to say the same thing.

          There appear to be two perspectives of opposition:

          1. Those that have a general negative view of law enforcement for any number of reasons.

          2. Those that are sensitized to the symbolism of the thing.

          Few of my friends and neighbors connect to either perspective. If they oppose the MRAP, it is general a slight opposition and it is generally because they know people in category #2 and don’t want to see them any more upset.

          I hope the hell that no Davis cop is injured or killed in any situation where this vehicle could have been used to keep him/her safe… or that we don’t have some event where citizens were harmed lacking a vehicle to safely extract them. I will be first on the PR scene to brand those pushing to eliminate the MRAP as being responsible.

          1. Edgar Wai

            My impression is that if there is ever a situation where an incident calls for military grade equipment to handle, I would prefer to have Chief Black and our local Davis PD to make the calls*, instead of officials from some other agencies that would probably have less concerns or connections to the daily lives in Davis.

            * unless the tactic required is beyond their proficiency.

          2. Frankly

            Apparently those opposed to the MRAP would prefer that our own PD be pushed aside and state or federal law enforcement get the job done when necessary. Personally I better trust our city PD to use better discretion protecting our community than I do outsiders.

    2. Tia Will


      “No one has any way of knowing how the community as a whole felt on this issue, as no vote or scientific poll was taken. ”

      Having noted and appreciated David’s objection, I think that this is a valid point. Which gets me back to the issue of process.

      The mistake that was made here was not that of the city council, but rather of the police. They had at least two years apparently to think through the implications of their request, consult with city leaders, consider the preferences of the community, gather actual data to support their position ( as opposed to three “what if scenarios” that clearly emphasized risk, but did not make it clear how this vehicle would truly reduce risk as opposed to other alternatives). They chose to do none of this. I see this choice as an example of a lack of understanding of the community they serve and a lack of judgement about the potential results of their actions. If they can make this large of a judgement error about the acquisition of the vehicle, is it so very hard to consider that they might make a judgement error in its use ?

      While I do not doubt the integrity and good will of the police leadership, I am very aware from my interactions with both Chief Black and Assistant Chief Pytel that they see the world through an entirely police directed lens. I feel that this whole situation mighty have been avoided had they made an attempt to obtain a broader perspective prior to acquisition.

      In my job, the doctor has traditionally been described as “the captain of the ship”. Over my thirty years in medicine we have been moving steadily towards a much more corroborative process in medicine. Where everyone used to just “shut up” and “mind their own business” once the surgeon had spoken, others are now empowered and encouraged to speak up if they see a potential problem. I cannot begin to tell you how many times in my career I have been saved from making an error and the patient been saved potential adverse consequences by someone of “lesser standing” on the medical totem pole catching something that I had not seen and altering me to a potential danger. A classic example would be the scrub nurse who notices just as I am about to cut, a tiny twitch in the patients foot indicating that they are not yet deeply enough sedated and tells me “WAIT”.

      We might have attained a very less divisive outcome here if the police had thought to hold a “time out” with consultation with all involved prior to acquiring a piece of equipment with implications for all.

      1. Anon

        The Police Chief tried to save the city a lot of money and be fiscally responsible while protecting his officers. He was replacing an already existing armored vehicle. Had it not been for the Fergason situation, he probably would have been alright. How could he possibly know the Fergason thing would blow things out of proportion? IMO the Police Chief did nothing wrong. We will have to agree to disagree on this issue.

  4. Matt Williams

    In the interests of balance regarding “odds” the chances of a Charles Whitman event happening on the UCD campus are incredibly small. Tall buildings like the one Witman occupied during his shooting rampage are few and far between on the UCD campus.


    1. Anon

      Were you at the City Council meeting where this decision was made? Did you see the pictures of the weapons that have been confiscated by the Davis Police Dept from perpetrators of crime in this city? It only takes one armed robber with a high-powered weapon to kill a police officer responding to a 9-1-1 call. Are you trying to say the police don’t need an armored vehicle, even tho they have had one for quite some time? Are you saying that the police should just “suck it up” and put their lives on the line without armored car protection?

      1. Matt Williams

        No, I chose to watch the proceedings on streaming website. And yes, I saw the pictures. My comment above related only to the mass shooting on the UCD campus comments made as part of the testimony on Tuesday night. If Davis is going to have a mass shooting event, it is more likely to be a Columbine type event rather than a UT Charles Whitman type event. An armored vehicle like the MRAP would be of more valuable in the case of a UT-Whitman-type event rather than a Columbine-type event.

        I personally come down on the Brett Lee side of this issue, and as I noted in a prior thread it is ironic that the roles that Brett and Robb played out in the MRAP discussion wire 180 degrees flipped from the roles that they played out in the early July Parcel Tax discussion. In each case one of them was asking for immediate action and the other was asking for a more considered process.

      2. Matt Williams

        The Vanguard is an interesting forum. On the one hand Brian Riley is accusing me of being a shill for the police department (if not actually a police department member), and Anon is lambasting me for unfeelingly telling the police department to “suck it up” and put their lives on the line without the benefit of the armored protection the MRAP would provide.

        In the Vanguard, you can have it both ways.

      3. Edgar Wai

        I don’t like how the decision was made, but the final outcome might be the same as Robb said.

        If I understand the presentation, the high power rifles that can penetrate the swambulance and the peacekeeper are the hunting-rifle looking guns. By penetrate, I don’t know whether it means it could penetrate one door panel of the car, or that it could penetrate both wheels and the axle, or the engine block. Are we talking about a bullet could shoot people inside the car or the other side of the car?

        Can those rifle penetrate a dump truck? Could the SWAT just recruit some dump trucks to do with same thing, with the dump truck backing up instead of facing the direction of the suspect. To shoot the driver the shooter would have to go around the dump truck(s).

        To deliver a phone to the suspect, could the SWAT just use an RC car?

        1. hpierce

          Think about it Edgar… if the police are in the dump truck, and it backs up, what happens when they try to leave the vehicle? Not a particularly useful concept.

          1. Edgar Wai

            In that scenario, the police officers would not be on the truck. They would be walking with the truck, while the truck moves and position itself between the shooter and the officers.

      4. Tia Will


        I was at the City Council meeting. I also was very impressed by the array of weapons displayed by Chief Black. I took away an entirely different message from this display than you did. What the display showed was weapons that had already been confiscated by the police. To me this indicates that the police are already achieving great results with the resources currently available to them. The question that was not explored was the alternatives to this vehicle that the police already possess which have allowed them to achieve such success without loss of police life and whether or not we might be better off enhancing and adding to that form of policing rather than expending our resources on maintenance and training for this new vehicle that might or might not “rarely” , ( or ever ) be needed.

          1. Tia Will


            I may be guilty of Pollyanna thinking, and you may be guilty of too simplistic thinking.

            I do not divide the world into “the good guys and the bad guys” as you do. I accept that there are dangerous people in the world. Some are in uniform, some are not. In my mind, there was only one truly dangerous player on the quad at UCE on 2011 and that was Officer Pike who was doubtlessly motivated by safety and law and order concerns but seriously misjudged the risk and chose to use inappropriate equipment in which he was not trained on inappropriate subjects as determined by law, not by my personal opinion. My goal is to reduce the risk to all of poorly considered uses of force whether on the part of criminals, or on the part of the police.

            I understand the intended message conveyed by the confiscated weapons.
            I also understand that there are other potential interpretations of this display and I feel that there are other potential ways of mitigating this threat such as the confiscation of weapons and sensible laws to prevent more of them from entering the hands of those who would harm the innocent. I do not see an escalation of force, even if presented as only
            “defense” as a good means of reduction of force which would be my overall goal.

          2. Alan Miller

            ““dangerous people in uniform”? Dangerous to who or whom?”

            People not in uniform.

            I was heading back from a party in Woodland at 4:00am on 11-19, and heard on national radio news about the events of 11-18. I was completely baffled at what I was hearing. I’d walked by the tents, knew people out there, and could not imagine what could have led to what was being described.

            When I got home I watched video of the incident, and the first thing I saw was a friend of mine having his head shoved into the ground by a police officer. My friend later showed me a sprinkler head on the lawn just off the so-called Centennial Walkway. He said he’ll never forget that sprinkler head, because when his face was shoved into the lawn his forehead was smashed into that sprinkler head. I listened to his and many other friends and other people of what happened that day.

            I must admit at first I was skeptical that I wasn’t being fed a line. But all the stories lined up. I spent literally days watching videos of 11-18. If you dig deep enough, you can find numerous little-seen tapes that start well before where most of the tapes started rolling. There are some that are taken from people who climbed trees and you can see everything. I fully expected to find as I went back a point where students did something egregious that set the whole thing off. But it just wasn’t there. That’s when I got pissed.

            So yeah, those people, dangerous to those other people.

        1. Edgar Wai

          Hello Tia,

          I have a different view of your interpretation. Yes, the police confiscated the weapons successfully, but each time might be like rolling the dice. At some point, the luck might run out.

          According to your other post, if you want some scientific evidence, one or two incidents where a police officer is killed might not even be enough to justify anything. Then the scientifically-proper question to ask would be how many Davis PD do you want to see shoot for the data to be valid?

          We can’t resurrect people. There is no proper way to take responsibility of such study unless the officers themselves are willing to do it themselves.

          My assumption so far is that the officers are not comfortable with the swambulance and peacekeeper alone. They were asking, “can we use the MRAP to reduce our odds of getting shot?”

          To get the data, we are not talking about testing on plants or animals. We are talking about testing on human beings.

          1. Tia Will

            “hen the scientifically-proper question to ask would be how many Davis PD do you want to see shoot for the data to be valid?”

            I do not agree that the scientifically proper question would to be ask how man Davis PD do you want to see shot ?’

            As a matter of fact, I see this as a very inflammatory question. Obviously the answer to that question is zero. The “scientifically appropriate” question is how many police lives have been saved in situations similar to that faced by the Davis PD in which the MRAP has made the difference in whether or not the officer would have been killed. This is the type of information that I am seeking because this is the best evidence that we can obtain about the utility of this vehicle in our kind of setting.

          2. Edgar Wai

            But to see the difference, you would have to have data whether without the MRAP, a police officer would be shot.

            This is what you would need to compare to make a case that the MRAP is needed:

            1) A situation where MRAP is not available and an officer is shot.
            2) The same situation where MRAP is available and an officer is not shot.

            The police’s testimony was that officers had not been shot yet. (Situation 1 had not happened). If data is the prerequisite of acquiring the MRAP, the case could not be made until an officer is shot.

            I understand this is the type of information you request. But how do you propose to obtained it without someone getting shot (either from now on or in the past)?

            Also, why does the police need to justify the MRAP on its effectiveness to block bullets. They need a vehicle as is even if it is not armored.

      5. Jim Frame

        It only takes one armed robber with a high-powered weapon to kill a police officer responding to a 9-1-1 call.

        And this would be true even if an MRAP were in the PD fleet. A vehicle like that doesn’t sit idling and loaded with a SWAT team 24/7 waiting for a 911 call; it’s not a first-response vehicle. I have no expertise in police procedure, but I would guess the scenario plays out something like this:

        1. A call comes in to 911 that there’s an altercation/robbery/what-have-you in which a weapon has been brandished or shots fired.

        2. Dispatch directs the nearest patrol car to the scene to investigate.

        3. The officer arrives on scene and either resolves the problem or reports what he finds and calls for backup if he needs it. If the situation is serious enough — like the one under consideration — he also calls for a supervisor. The officer takes prudent measures to protect himself/herself in the interim. (If innocent lives are in imminent danger, he/she may expose him/herself to potential harm, much as FD personnel may ignore the 2-in-2-out rule before entering a dangerous situation if lives are on the line.)

        4. Backup and/or supervisor arrives to assess the situation. If the situation warrants, an armored vehicle and SWAT team are called up.

        5. The SWAT team is assembled. This involves redirecting officers from patrol positions and/or calling in off-duty personnel to staff the SWAT team.

        6. The SWAT team boards the armored vehicle and responds to the scene.

        Question 1 (calling Phil Coleman): How well does the above scenario jive with PD standard procedure?

        Question 2: How much time elapsed between steps 3 and 6?

        Question 3: How well does an armored vehicle in the storage yard protect the first officer to respond?

        1. Edgar Wai

          Hello Jim,

          From what I interpreted, the most likely use of the MRAP would be to serve a warrant against a suspect at their own house knowing that that person has high power rifles. The police needs to knock on the door at the suspect’s territory.

          The amount of preparation and surprise possible by the suspect is not comparable to a shooter out on the street. The situation is more like a siege.

          Do you have corresponding questions for this scenario?

          1. Jim Frame

            Do you have corresponding questions for this scenario?

            With the caveat that this is speculation on my part, if serving a warrant literally requires that an officer knock on the door — and I don’t know if that’s the case — then an armored vehicle isn’t going to protect that officer. Even if they drove the vehicle to the door, someone’s going to have to get out to do the knocking.

            So I think what we’re talking about is how to stage a sufficient number of PD personnel in the vicinity so that they’re reasonably protected and ready to respond if the warrant service doesn’t go well. In other words, it isn’t a siege until the suspect refuses to submit to the warrant. And as soon as it becomes a siege, the element of time breaks in favor of the PD, unless there are hostages involved (unlikely in the case of warrant service, it seems to me).

            Besieging an urban residence is different from besieging an isolated castle on the Scottish moors. The suspect’s field of fire is going to be restricted by fences, trees, cars and other buildings. I would think that PD personnel could be staged in the neighborhood without need for an armored vehicle.

            But then what? If the suspect refuses to surrender — even if no shots have been fired — what are the options? Tear gas and storming the building come to mind. An armored vehicle would help in both situations, to an extent — it would safely get the officers closer to the point of action. But it’s hardly a panacea; the officers still have to get out of the vehicle to work. (The example in Sac in which an MRAP was used to break into a building is interesting, but the odds of needing something for that purpose are pretty slim, and what if the suspect is in a 2nd-floor apartment?)

            So what I’m seeing is a very, very limited need for an armored vehicle at all, and for those unusual situations in which it’s the tool of choice, it seems that there’s likely to be time to muster one from a regional agency.

            And I have to add that I remain very skeptical about the purported absence of any significant budget impact of maintaining an MRAP in the PD fleet.

          2. Edgar Wai

            If an officer is shot on the way to serve the search warrant, the MRAP can be driven to rescue the down officer. The situation might be similar to a scene from Saving Private Ryan.

            I am not posing to answer questions on police tactics. Just collecting questions about those tactics.

            A picture of an armored vehicle in front of a house. The vehicle does not look like a MRAP.

          3. Jim Frame

            I’m not suggesting that there are no legitimate uses for an armored vehicle. What I question is the cost/benefit ratio behind the case for Davis PD owning one, and with neither numerator nor denominator limited to financial values.

            (If PD safety were the only criterion, we’d want to equip every patrol officer with an MRAP, because you never know when someone’s going to fire a high-powered rifle at one of those flimsy old Crown Vics.)

          4. Michelle Millet

            So what I’m seeing is a very, very limited need for an armored vehicle at all, and for those unusual situations in which it’s the tool of choice, it seems that there’s likely to be time to muster one from a regional agency.
            And I have to add that I remain very skeptical about the purported absence of any significant budget impact of maintaining an MRAP in the PD fleet.

            I think these are both valid points. I wish council had decided to look into these issues more before voting to return the vehicle.

        2. Matt Williams

          The Cliff’s Notes version of Jim’s post is that in normal daily police operations the MRAP will provide no incremental safety protection for the department’s officers. It could provide incremental safety protection in extraordinary operations after the situation is identified as extraordinary and is responded to as extraordinary by the deployment of the MRAP.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            That’s a point I make in the article when the writer cited the Stockton situation as a reason why we needed the vehicle, in actuality if you look at the Stockton situation, you’d realize the vehicle would be of no use because it’s not mobile enough to be involved in a police pursuit scenario. That’s the problem that I see across the board.

          2. Matt Williams

            Agreed David. I posed this question to Anon yesterday and he/she hasn’t had time to respond, but the question probably warrants a full follow-up Vanguard story. Specifically, “What has the deployment history of the existing Police Department armored vehicle been over the period of time that the police department has owned that armored vehicle?” It would probably be useful to also know a bit about what kind of vehicle it is.

  5. Edgar Wai

    The anxiety on police militarization can be described in terms of the the power discrepancy between normal people and the police force. This party of the anxiety is independent to symbolism and the origin of the equipment. It is only related to the magnitude of power that could be misused.

    Imagine a police officer gets robotic armor that makes him invincible. Even when unarmed otherwise, he could just run into, trample over, or punch and kill any number of people he wants. With no other way to stop that, the only reason the people are safe is that the officer did not decide to abuse the power. The risk involves the risk the officer would decide otherwise, and the risk that the armor is stolen by someone who would use it otherwise. The insurance premium of just keeping the armor would be astronomical.

    Therefore, the decision on whether a piece of equipment should be obtained should involve these consideration:

    1. How is the equipment safeguarded from abuse? (Prevention)
    2. If the equipment is abused, can the people defeat it by having enough number? (Override by people in the abscent of a protocol)

    These concerns exist regardless symbolism or whether the equipment is useful for any situation. The ideal equipment for the police is something that prevents specific targets from killing anyone with a small amount of ammo so that the police could be overridden by number if needed.

    The police should not be able to handle a huge group of assailants by design. Having to go against a huge group of people while severely outnumbered should not be their job. At that point it should be the responsibility of the people.

    1. Alan Miller

      “Imagine a police officer gets robotic armor that makes him invincible.”

      Imagine the fight between him and an armed criminal with robotic armor, also invincible.

      Lots of never ending rounds ending in ties.

  6. Tia Will

    Regardless of which side of this issue one is on, I believe that Mayor Pro Tem Davis got one point completely right when he spoke about the importance of symbolism. Both sides were clearly using symbolic speech in an attempt to frame the conversation to favor their position.

    The MRAP proponents claimed that “this is just a truck”.
    The MRAP opponents claimed that “this is a tank”.

    Both statements were incorrect, and both were used by sincere and well intentioned people hoping to sway the undecided, of whom I believe there were remarkably few in the City Chambers that night.

    1. Alan Miller

      I called it a tank not because it was correct, but because it made a good t-shirt.

      And it annoyed people who kept saying “it’s not a tank”.

  7. Anon

    Tia: How were both statements incorrect? The MRAP is an armored truck – it sits on a truck chassis. It has no weapons on it, nor treads like a tank does. The def’n of a tank clearly state it is armed with a cannon and machine guns and moving on a caterpillar tread.

  8. Neutral

    Look no further than November 18, 2011, on the UCD Quad . . .

    Wrong police department. The DPD’s actions at the time were the exact opposite of UCDPD’s fiasco. Or do you not remember the DPD visits to the “Occupy” tent(s) in Central Park? If anything their actions in those particular circumstances support the arguments against using an MRAP.

    1. Tia Will


      Agreed. In fact, if I recall correctly, now Assistant Chief Pytel can be seen on some of the 2011 footage in his regular uniform walking calmly through the crowd talking amicably with the protestors. A clear testament in my mind against the need for the use of excessive force in questionable circumstances.

      I do not believe that anyone has made the claim that the Davis police force was engaged in the use of excessive force. I pointed this out only as a local example of how faulty judgements both on the part of the citizen leadership and the police leadership can result in the use of excessive force. If it can happen on the usually peaceful UCD campus, do we honestly believe that it could not happen in the city of Davis ?

  9. Tia Will


    “I don’t think we’d be having this discussion at all if militarization of the police hadn’t been in the news rather dramatically via Ferguson recently.”

    First, I disagree with both you and Don that this would have been a non issue without Ferguson. I believe that the UCD incident being only three years ago would have been enough to make some very skeptical about the potential for misuse. I know that I am just one voice, but Ferguson did not even come to mind for me. It was the image of pepper spraying done with unapproved
    equipment by untrained personnel on unarmed and seated protestors that played a major role in my thinking.

    “The MRAP is an armored truck”

    Please notice the difference between your accurate statement above and Chief Black’s inaccurate statement “if is ‘just’ a truck.
    The MRAP is as far from ‘just a truck’ as it is from a “tank”. That little word “armored” is what makes all the difference between your correct statement and the symbolic and inaccurate statement made by Chief Black.

  10. tj

    The overarching concern is that the city and/or the country ought not be turned into a military police state, which we see has happened in other countries: No more democracy.

    THANKS to the Vanguard without which we probably would never have known about the “not a tank”, tank a like, or tank lite.

    1. Alan Miller

      “THANKS to the Vanguard without which we probably would never have known about the “not a tank”,”

      I think you would have found out about 12 hours later.

  11. Tia Will

    For those who feel that my position is callous or uncaring about the safely of the police, allow me a medical analogy.

    I am the physician in chief of a local county medical center. I am aware that there is a very highly lethal strain of Ebola and that there is a currently out of control outbreak of this disease which has broken quarantine in Africa. I know that there are daily flights out of one of the affected major cities in Africa to the United States. I know that people are attempting to flee the disease by leaving the area and that some might choose to fly out prior to demonstrating any evidence of infection. I further know that there have been at least two individuals with this particular disease who have been transported by plane to the US for treatment and that protection of attendant medical personnel includes the use of a highly specialized positive pressure isolation ward. Should I now take the action of securing one of these very expensive to maintain and staff wards on the off chance that we might encounter cases of Ebola in our community in the future.? Would I be subject to claims that I did not care whether or not my hospital staff lived or died if I do not take this action ? Should every PIC of a public hospital be installing one of these to protect their health care professionals ? Or should I maybe consider that our time, money and efforts might better be spent on such primary preventive techniques as better questioning and screening at airports, immediate isolation in current isolation wards of those with fevers of unknown origin rather than waiting or assuming that they have some more benign disease while waiting for the tests results to arrive, and increasing the training of all staff members in the early signs and symptoms of the disease to put into place secondary preventive measures as soon as there is a suspect case ?

    Please understand that no one does not care about the safety of the police. What is being questioned is whether or not this is the best way to address that issue. I believe that the police had ample time to make a strong case for the use of this vehicle in our community if indeed there is one to be made. My career has driven me to an evidence based approach to major decision making. I would truly have liked to see the evidence and I believe that the time for presentation was prior to acquisition.

    1. Edgar Wai

      Analogies do not make good arguments because one can always find analogies to suit their needs and ignore important facts. But in this case I think your analogy itself does not apply:

      “Should I now take the action of securing one of these very expensive to maintain and staff wards on the off chance that we might encounter cases of Ebola in our community in the future.?”

      The police said that the maintenance cost is the same as what would be for the swambulance. Any training cost (I think the 250 hours mentioned), was no different from what is already in place.

      Did you miss this point or do you have a case against the police’s assessment?

    2. tribeUSA

      Tia–re: “protection of attendant medical personnel includes the use of a highly specialized positive pressure isolation ward. ”

      Oops, don’t forget to turn the pressure to negative (not positive) for the patients ward!

  12. Tia Will

    “Did you miss this point or do you have a case against the police’s assessment?”

    I heard this point and do not argue it except for one point which I think should always be under ongoing assessment. That is the question of whether current or future practices represent the best utilization of our resources. Many times, it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see inefficiencies in current practices that we may no longer “see” because it is “always the way we have done things”.
    The police may or may not be conducting such ongoing assessments. We simply have no way of knowing since they did not address the issue.

    I agree with you that the use of analogy is limited. However, I do not think that it is totally without merit when used as an example of risk assessment, or in this case to combat the point of view being put forward that those who stood in opposition to the MRAP do not care about the police which I believe is both erroneous, inflammatory, and frankly insulting.

  13. Tia Will


    “If the deciding matter is symbolism, one should only express the symbolism and hope the police to have the same view. ”

    I think that you and I may have a generational difference in the efficacy of “hoping the police to have the same view”.
    I suspect that you may have never had a police weapon pointed at you while completely peacefully attending a protest as I did during the Viet Nam war protests. I suspect that you, and perhaps many others here, have never seen first hand the use of
    tear gas at previously peaceful protests when the crowds did not disperse immediately when instructed to do so. Some of us while having had no bad experiences with the Daivs police, carry with us the memories of how interactions with a “militarized’ police can go very, very wrong. A recent example that I have not heard you address or even acknowledge is what occurred on the UCD campus involving the campus police in 2011. As a matter of fact, I have not heard anyone who publicly favors the acquisition of the MRAP even so much as acknowledge this incident.

    I am wondering if perhaps you did not hear the reading of the quote from then Police Chief Stamper characterizing the actions of his own police force under his leadership in Seattle as inciting more violence rather than serving as peacekeepers. With regard to the police, I recommend the same approach that I would apply to anyone in authority or with power over me. They should be able to provide solid evidence for their preferences of tools and procedures and they should consistently be held to a higher standard than those over whom they hold power. I expect this of myself when caring for patients who place their well being in my hands, and I expect this of my police and public officials.

    1. Edgar Wai

      I commented on pepper spray here:

      The deployment and armament to deal with a protest is different from that deployed for high risk search warrant. The MRAP is for the SWAT. Your concern that the police would use MRAP on peaceful protestors would skip a few levels of escalation:

      1. Using nothing vs using pepper spray
      2. Using pepper spray vs using rubber bullets
      3. Using rubber bullets vs using lethal bullets
      4. Using officers in regular mode vs SWAT mode

      From what I understand, the police itself cannot issue a search warrant. Search warrants are issued by the court. So there is some kind of check and balance before getting to the stage where SWAT would be deployed. Maybe a judge should decide whether there is probable cause to deploy an MRAP.

      It was also proposed that perhaps the council’s discretion is needed to deploy an MRAP.

      Questions like these that might address the concern of abuse are by-pass if the council decide right-away that MRAP is to be returned. There was no room left for discussion.

      1. Alan Miller

        “It was also proposed that perhaps the council’s discretion is needed to deploy an MRAP.”

        Civilian group-think oversight of a tactical police operation. Kinda like Katehi’s 11-17 Mrak Task Force. That would go well. “We have a situation! Convene the City Council!”

  14. Edgar Wai

    My sentiments:

    Police officers aren’t some godly beings that are bullet proof. Imagine that there is no police force and there is a shooter. How are we (the people that are in this discussion) going to deal with that issue? What kind of protection would you want to have? How do we decide who go first to subdue the shooter?

  15. Tia Will


    “So there is some kind of check and balance before getting to the stage where SWAT would be deployed. Maybe a judge should decide whether there is probable cause to deploy an MRAP.”

    There was a system of checks and balances in place on the UCD campus at the time of the pepper spray incident. The action to clear the quad was ordered by the Chancellor after a conference with her leadership team. They came to erroneous, fear based conclusions about the risks involved in the protest. The police then attempted to enact the flawed directive with the resultant misuse of a chemical never intended for this kind of action and in the use of which they had never been trained. If things can go wrong, they frequently will even with layers of oversight.

    “Police officers aren’t some godly beings that are bullet proof”

    On this we completely agree. And I would add that they are also not some godly beings who are omniscient or all good. They are capable of mistakes and bad decisions just like every other human being. My statements are not intended to vilify the police, they are directed to designing systems that minimize the harm to all involved leaving as little as possible to human error.

  16. Chicolini


    You ask an importsnt questiin regarding a scenario that involves a very real possibility regarding Ebola exposure and containment:

    “Should every PIC of a public hospital be installing one of these to protect their health care professionals ? Or should I maybe consider that our time, money and efforts might better be spent on such primary preventive techniques as better questioning and screening at airports, immediate isolation in current isolation wards of those with fevers of unknown origin rather than waiting or assuming that they have some more benign disease while waiting for the tests results to arrive, and increasing the training of all staff members in the early signs and symptoms of the disease to put into place secondary preventive measures as soon as there is a suspect case ?”

    Your observations regarding this possible helath concern is presented a decision making role that you as as PIC in public hospital would have to weigh the best procedures in tbe obtainment of a possible quarantine facility versus a more broadbanded approach to screening for possible carriers at points of entry into the States. The anology to a police chief deliberating on the acquirement of equipment such as the MRAP for situations that would effectively serve thm in their duties strikes at the very core of pubic service and the risks involved in both occupations. In each case those serving the publiic in their official capacities are doing at the bequest and under the directives of governmental agencies and all the guideline that go along with those onerous duties. Also, in each case rhese public officials are doing so with the knowlege that life and death service carries with many reards and many dangers. No one involved in either role enters into such scenarios without training, degrees that match their responsibilities, or detailed plans on how to effectively perform their duties. Also, each of these public servants take precautions in procedural requirements that include proper dress and protective gear to sustain life, protect agianst infection, and unnecessary or unexpected fatalities. Your approach as stated sounds solid and reasonable in its approach and execution. The police chief has not reasonably provided such a response to the acquirment of an MRAP for stated police needs. However, I believe their needs are real and that this the issue that needs to addressed. If one looks at the daily police log on the Davis PD web site, one can see the typea of encounters and situatiins that officers find themselve faced with on a dialy basis. In all cases these officers are faced with risk; if they believe the need more protection then as a community we need to hear that and support them in finding reasonable measures, tactics, and equipment that will make them as safe as pissible in their fulfillment of their duties in the roles as public safety officers. Let us move forward with that goal in mind.

  17. Tia Will


    I completely agree and feel that this is also the position of the city council members with whom I have been in communication. I see this entire event as a way for our community to address the issue of civilian and police safety in a broader context which may have unknowingly been neglected for some time. As a private citizen, I was certainly not aware of the needs of the police department and suspect that members of the city council were also unaware.

  18. Tia Will


    ““dangerous people in uniform”?

    Dangerous to who or whom?”

    Sometimes to people protesting peacefully as in the pepper spray incident.
    Sometimes to people who are merely walking downy he street, but look “suspicious”.
    Sometimes to those who are mistakenly perceived to have weapons as in the teenager who was shot by a police man who believed he had an assault weapons when what he had was a toy.

    There are a number of videos that circulate showing police behaving badly. These are sometimes caught by citizens filming with their cell phones and are sometimes captured on the police’s own video cams.
    These are most certainly a small number of cases compared to the totality of police interventions but they can go very, very wrong since we allow our police to use lethal force essentially at their own discretion. There are a number of examples of people who have been mentally impaired in some fashion who have been killed by police for failing to obey orders that they were unable to comprehend. The fact that the number is small does not mean that this is not a problem within our society. If you doubt this, a conversation with either Chief Black or Assistant Chief Pytel, both of whom I have spoken with in person will disavow you of the notion that this does not happen.

  19. tj

    “If we don’t have police, then what?”

    We have the county deputies, parole and probation officers, we have the CHP, Fish and Game wardens, the DEA, we have federal Marshalls, the FBI, and the secret service, and we have county and state prosecutors who are sworn and armed. We have Travis Air Base with its military aircraft constantly criss-crossing Davis. Also ATF agents.

    I feel fully protected.

  20. Edgar Wai

    If we don’t talk about symbolism, the decision to keep a piece of police equipment is a decision that concerns three groups of people.

    1) The threat. These are people carrying out their intentions to hurt others.
    2) Normal people. These are victims or potential victims of the threats.
    3) Police. These are people assigned to deal with the threats.

    Exposition about these entities:

    1) The police is not meant to deal with all kinds of threats. The tactics and equipments that the police may use is regulated. The actual equipment the police has is limited by the funding. Lack of equipment also limit the range of tactics they may use.

    2) The threats, which includes criminals, may use tactics and equipments that are illegal. The threats may evolve faster than the police could. The threats normally have objectives other than killing the police. If they team up, they would probably have enough firepower to kill all the police. But they don’t team up because they cannot trust one another, they fight one another, do not communicate, or that they are mentally unstable and are dangerous to one another.

    3) Teamwork is one advantage the police has against the threats. Teamwork allows the police to gather to deal with a threat and cover one another during a confrontation.

    4) If the equipment of the threat and the police are the same, a one-on-one confrontation between one officer and one shooter would be like a cowboy shoot-out. The odds that either one would lose would be 50%. Teamwork gives the police higher odds of not getting hurt during a confrontation. Given a team of police officers against one shooter, teamwork allows the collective damage taken by the team to be less than what a single officer would take if he is handling the situation alone.

    5) The advantage of teamwork decreases if the threat has more power weapons or armors. At some point, teamwork stops to give the police an advantage. To estimate the power discrepancy, one could use the number of officers engaged in combat and the collective damage taken by the police during combat. For example, if a team of 10 SWAT officers are to engage 1 shooter, and the shooter managed to shoot down 1 SWAT officer before the conflict ends, then the overall power discrepancy is 10:1, where the shooter is 10 times as powerful as the SWAT. This estimate means that if a SWAT officer is sent to deal with the shooter alone, the shooter would have killed him 10 times.

    6) If one were to use such estimate to calculate the threat’s power against the police for each type of situation, one would get an index corresponding to the risk of a situation.

    7) Assuming that all lives are weighed equally, a community would not ask the police to deal with a situation where the threat, if not dealt with, would kill just as many officers if the police were to confront it.

    8) The police is not powerful enough if the threats average ratio is or greater than 1:1. That ratio means trading the life of one police officer against one shooter. However, if the shooter has the potential to kill many more people, and if the ratio for normal people to handle the situation is even worse, as a community, there is no better choice than to let the police deal with the threat.

    9) If the ratio is greater than 1:1, the community has an obligation to do something to increase the police’s odds. This is based on the ethics that a community should not knowingly maintain a job role where someone is taking more risk to protect the community at large. When a community establish the police to deal with threats, the community is not asking the officers to trade their lives with the threats. Having a police force is only ethical if the skills, teamwork, and equipment allow the officers to handle the threats with better odds.

    10) If the ratio is less than 1:1, then the community has no ethical obligation to further increase the police’s odds. However, morally there is still a desire to increase it because a good community does not want any officer death if there is something reasonable they could do to help.

    11) In selecting equipment to increase the odds, it is better if the officer decide the equipment they want. The reason is that no person has the ability to take responsibility of someone else’s life. As long as the choice does not obviously reduce the odds for the police or the people, the officer should be allowed to use it even if there is no clear evidence that the equipment could increase the odds. The choice of the officer is not obviously hurting anyone, and the officer himself is using his own life to take responsibility of his choice. An officer asking to wear an amulet should be allowed to wear it as long as there is no obvious or evidence that it would reduce the odds.

    12) The community has no moral reason to take away an equipment an officer selects with the hope to increase his odds, unless there is evidence that the equipment lowers the odds for the community as a whole. This is based on the dependency that the officer is the primary person taking the risk and taking the responsibility of their choice of equipment. The officer does not need to proof that the equipment is effective. The opposition needs to prove that the equipment is a threat.

    1. Jim Frame

      Interesting analysis, but taking symbolism off the table artificially skews the results. People don’t want to feel threatened by their own police force, and if an MRAP instills fear — rational or otherwise — in the populace, then symbolism has to be taken into account in order to produce a useful analysis.

      4) If the equipment of the threat and the police are the same, a one-on-one confrontation between one officer and one shooter would be like a cowboy shoot-out. The odds that either one would lose would be 50%.

      Don’t forget one huge advantage that a police force has over common criminals when it comes to firearms use: training, training and more training. An officer who regularly trains with firearms, both at a shooting range (for accuracy) and in simulated active-shooter events (for reflexive deployment) is likely to be much more effective than a drug dealer, robber or nutcase who bought a gun but has never used it in a high-pressure situation.

      1. Edgar Wai

        With the base analysis, symbolism is irrelevant. If you argue that symbolism causes threat, then measure the threat. It is the threat that counts.

        I think it would not alter the result of the analysis if “equipment” is replaced by “equipment and/or training”. Equipment and training are difference in that equipment can be readily confiscated. For training, the access to training may be denied, but the skill/knowledge/reflex already acquired by a person cannot be readily taken away as equipment could. But in the analysis above, this difference had not mattered yet.

        1. Jim Frame

          For training, the access to training may be denied, but the skill/knowledge/reflex already acquired by a person cannot be readily taken away as equipment could.

          My experience is very different, and I’m surprised to hear you suggest otherwise. You and I have both undergone a considerable amount of training with CERT, but those trainings are widely separated in time. I find at each one that I’ve forgotten a lot of what was learned before, and “reflexive” is the last word I’d choose to describe my reactions.

          I believe that frequent structured training (or, more effective yet, real-life application) is required to ensure that heat-of-the-moment emotional responses don’t unduly interfere with rational action in high-stress situations. I think this concept is also the foundation upon which military combat training is based. And I don’t think that criminal actors get anywhere near that kind of training.

          1. Edgar Wai

            I guess I am talking about the context when a police officer becomes malicious overnight.

            Their department issued weapon can be confiscated, but the marksmanship training they have would remain if they were to fire their personal firearms.

            I understand your message that given the same equipment, in a 1 v 1 shootout you would expect the police officer to have higher odds than your average criminal.

          2. Matt Williams

            Very interesting interchange Edgar and Jim … all the more interesting because I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with both of you in the past.

            Out of curiosity, have either of you seen the 2013 movie Rush, which is the telling of the intense personal rivalry between Formula 1 drivers Nikki Lauda and James Hunt during the 1976 Grand Prix season? As I read Edgar’s final sentence above, my mind flashed to one of the exchanges between Lauda and Hunt where Lauda made a prediction about which of them would win more races “out of 10.” The logic that Lauda used to explain why Hunt would beat him in some races would (I believe) apply to the police officer – average criminal duality that Edgar references.

    2. Tia Will


      Your basic premise is that there are three distinct and totally separate groups of people. This is fundamentally flawed in that ti does not take into account that there may be cross over between groups. So are various points in time, an individual while acting as a police officer may either intentionally ( as in the case of losing one’s temper) or unintentionally as in intending only to stun but actually killing someone with a taser) cross over into the group that either intends or inadvertently causes harm to your “normal people”.

      As someone who has been threatened with harm ( although not actually harmed) by police with military style gear while exercising my right to peaceful protest, I am perhaps more aware of the ambiguity of these groups than those who have not had this experience.

  21. BrianRiley429

    “The officer does not need to proof that the equipment is effective. The opposition needs to prove that the equipment is a threat.”

    You’re making a huge error here, Edgar. The police are *not* equal actors in this situation on par with the city’s citizens. The police officers do *not* have the right to be police officers. Their service is subordinate to the collective decision-power of the citizenry, as expressed through the City Council.

    So you are presenting what is called a “false trichotomy”.

    1. Edgar Wai

      I understand that police officers do not have the right to be police officers. I don’t think there is any thing in my analysis that contradicts that.

      The analysis so far completely supports the action for the community to just decide to disband the police if they want. I am not saying that that is what you are suggesting. I am explaining that the analysis handles that part also. If the police is disbanded, there is no power-discrepancy for the non-existent police to abuse. The overall safety of the community might change. But if everyone agrees, then each person takes their own share of the responsibility of not having the police.

      The natural reason for the police to exist, is that somehow it serves as a benefit to the community. If they cost more than the benefit they are giving, then rationally the community should disband it. However, the community may also make irrational decisions. As long as they take responsibility for the decision, ethics is not violated.

      The following is valid:
      “We want to have a city without a police force. Anyone who has a problem with that please talk to us, and we can discuss an acceptable way or compensations to make that happen. Once everyone’s concerns are addressed, we will act accordingly to reach that goal.”

  22. Anon

    I am not trying to “beat a dead horse”, but I do want those who oppose the MRAP to fully understand the implications of their decision, including the 3 City Council members who voted against keeping the MRAP. The City Council, by refusing the MRAP, has put the police in danger of being shot without the appropriate protection. The Police Chief made very clear that the city has had an armored vehicle for a number of years (cannot remember how many from the discussion), but the last time it was deployed, it broke down on the way to an incident, and so was useless. Now the police have no armored vehicle protection. Opponents of the MRAP are trying to argue (at least as far as I can tell) there may be no need for an armored vehicle, which flies in the face of the evidence. The Police Chief showed all the high-powered weapons the police have confiscated right here in Davis from criminals. To try and argue that the police managed to remove them without an armored vehicle is a pretty flimsy excuse and just does not hang together logically, as Edgar Wei has noted. If the criminals have these sorts of weapons in their possession, they are clearly prepared to use them, or they wouldn’t have them in the first place. So those who argue the city doesn’t need an armored vehicle are essentially saying they are willing to put police officers in the line of fire with no suitable protection? If not, then their only fallback position is for the city to purchase a “politically correct” armored vehicle at a cost of $250,000 and up, but the city has no money with which to purchase such an item.

    For those who would argue we can “borrow” an armored vehicle from elsewhere, the Police Chief noted very succinctly and forcefully: 1) situations in which an armored vehicle is needed require the presence of such equipment within the first hour; 2) an armored truck of the sort used to deliver money does not stop high powered weapons, and neither do police cars; 3) other jurisdictions cannot necessarily deploy their vehicle for our needs at the time our city needs it (the Police Chief gave a specific example of a city this happened to); 4) an armored vehicle the city would purchase would only replace the broken down one we already have and that is past its useful life (1970s vintage).

    And finally, what kind of message are we sending to our police department, the police department that has tried its darnedest to engage in community policing and has done a damned fine job? We don’t trust your department or its successor enough to use any equipment you have in your possession correctly? We don’t care if you have to go into a dangerous situation without the proper protection – our comfort level is more important than your life?

    One more point. For those of you who think Davis is “safe”, think again. Marco Topete, who not that long ago shot and killed a police officer, lived in Davis. The Police Chief noted an armed hostage bank robbery that took place in Davis. He also showed the large cache of high-powered weapons that have been confiscated from criminals here in Davis. Just as a reminder, two Amish girls in PA were kidnapped recently right in front of their home and sexually abused. The fact of the matter is, like it or not, the world is a much more dangerous place than it was when we were growing up. I can remember wandering my neighborhood as a kid, going miles into the surrounding woods and playing on the streets miles away from home. Today, that would be a dangerous thing to do. And the reality is that very dangerous weapons are finding their way into the hands of criminals, which would still happen even if we had gun control (and I am not opposed to reasonable gun control).

    1. Jim Frame

      And finally, what kind of message are we sending to our police department, the police department

      The very same message that the City of San Jose put forth: that an MRAP is not an appropriate tool for use in an urban police department. Only in San Jose’s case, the initiative to give back the MRAP came from the PD itself. To quote the SJPD spokesperson: “We’ve been going through the analysis process,” Randol said. “It is a useful tool, but we realize it could be viewed by the community as the militarization of SJPD. It could create a divide, and we want the community’s trust.”

    2. Tia Will


      I’ll join you over that “dead horse”. I favored a full discussion of the pros and cons of the MRAP. When I favored that discussion was prior to its acquisition. What I believe that we are seeing from both sides is largely emotion based arguments, not a rationale consideration of the pros and cons of having such a piece of equipment.

      What much of the pro MRAP side is saying boils down to “what if” one or more of our officers encounter an unsafe situation in which this vehicle would keep them safer ? The rational way to discuss this in my opinion includes multiple factors which the police did not address at all in their presentation.
      1) How have they been handling these kinds of situations to date and what have been the outcomes ?
      2) What were the actual logistics of the situations in which they were successful in the gun confiscation ? How many times
      was any armored vehicle needed to effect confiscation safely ?
      3) How many times did they actually deploy the armored vehicle that we had and when deployed, how many times did it actually
      make a difference to the outcome ?
      4) Since we know that there have not been any deaths of police officers in Davis in recent history, what are actual examples
      from other similar communities in which armored vehicles ( whether MRAPs or other types) saved lives police or citizens ?
      5) What are the other alternatives for handling these situations ?
      6) How long do we anticipate it would take to summon a needed armored vehicle once needed from which community ?
      To not address this issue is to beg the question of then how many MRAPs do we need for the city of Davis much as we
      had the discussion of number and placement of firetrucks needed. Will one be sufficient to cover an event in far northeast
      Davis if there is a simultaneous event in the southwest quadrant or on campus ?
      These are the kinds of facts that I think should have been considered. In my opinion two years should have been plenty of time to aggregate data and make a factual presentation rather than an emotionally based one which basically is a plea to “protect our police officers” without presenting any factual data to support that this vehicle is the best means to achieve that goal.

      Edgar’s point was not “rationale” as even he stated that it was about his “sentiment” about the un “god like ” nature of the police. I am fully willing to admit that my “sentiment” based on my past experiences with “militarized” police is as against the MRAP as Edgar’s and yours is apparently for it.

      But I am not advocating on the basis of my feelings. I am advocating on the basis of demonstrated examples of what has gone wrong when the police are militarized and a desire for a factual police presentation about the utility of the MRAP from the police.

      So to summarize my facts ( not sentiments) :
      1) Students killed at Kent state by national guard ( not police ) over reaction leaving at least one not even protesting dead.
      2) MOVE bombed in Philadelphia by police with the resultant deaths of five children ( completely innocent) and a number or adults doubtless or varying degrees of culpability.
      3) Seattle WTO demonstrations in which then Police Chief Stamper himself characterized his own actions and those of the police
      under his command as an excessive use of force which lead to unnecessary violence in which the police served as as
      aggravating rather than a peace keeping force.
      4) 2011 UCD in which campus police enforcing the misguided directive formulated by the Chancellor’s poorly informed, fearful
      and erroneous leadership team used inappropriate weapons in which they were not trained in a manner for which the weapon
      was never intended to be used on seated protestors.

      These are examples of factual events. Although it is true that I was emotionally appalled by the presence of the MRAP, I was fully prepared to listen to a fact based presentation by the police. Instead, what I got was an emotionally driven statement about the need for officer safety with only three hypothetical scenarios presented, a visually disturbing display of weaponry clearly designed to play upon the emotions, and no actual factual presentation at all. I would have been happy with giving the police another 90 days to pull together a fact based presentation even though they had two years in which to do so.
      I am happy with decision that was made by the city council majority.

      What I am not happy with is the assertion, as though it were fact, that the MRAP is the best tool to achieve safety.
      What I am even less happy with is the “we care more about the police than you do” sentiment that is being expressed here.

      Note, sentiment, not fact.

      1. Matt Williams

        I’ll join you over that “dead horse”. I favored a full discussion of the pros and cons of the MRAP. When I favored that discussion was prior to its acquisition. What I believe that we are seeing from both sides is largely emotion based arguments, not a rationale consideration of the pros and cons of having such a piece of equipment.

        I too will join you over that “dead horse” Anon … and while I do agree with Tia’s perception of the ideal timing for a full discussion, I really don’t think that the absence of that ideal timing should have caused us as a community to put a gun to our collective temple and allowed the absence of that ideal timing to have thrown the opportunity for the full discussion out the window. We had no deadline. Nothing untoward was going to happen if we followed Brett lee’s recommended path. There was literally no downside risk in taking our time to have that discussion.

        With that said, I do feel that the end result of the discussion would have been to dispose of the MRAP, but if that was the ultimate decision it would have had different optics than what was done on Tuesday.

      2. Edgar Wai

        I must explain this categorical comment about my views.

        “Edgar’s point was not “rationale” as even he stated that it was about his “sentiment” about the un “god like ” nature of the police. I am fully willing to admit that my “sentiment” based on my past experiences with “militarized” police is as against the MRAP as Edgar’s and yours is apparently for it.”

        It should be clear that most of my views about the MRAP and the council decision are based on facts and rational analysis. At the same time, I am also human and has my emotions about the issue. That part I labelled as my sentiments.

        I reject the notion that all of my comments are categorized as sentiments.

      3. Edgar Wai

        To tell what is right and what is wrong to do is a philosophical analysis process.

        The significant issue about the decision to return the MRAP, is that those people have yet to realize that they way the decision was incorrect. The way the decision was made is setting a bad example.

  23. Anon

    Thanks Edgar for more fully explaining your viewpoint. And I concur that the way the decision was made was poor at best, and will probably come back to bite the City Council and citizens to the tune of $250,000 plus.

    To Tia: You name 4 instances across the nation where police ostensibly stepped out of bounds. I can name you 100,000 (or perhaps up to a million cases) where criminals have stepped out of bounds with high-powered weapons. Secondly, the MRAP would not have been a militarization of the police. It would have been swapping one armored vehicle for one that was even more protective, period, the fact that the MRAP came in “politically incorrect” colors notwithstanding. The MRAP had absolutely no weaponry mounted on it. The one point we do agree on is that the police should have been given sufficient opportunity to make their case, and 3 City Council members chose not to. What were they afraid of?

    And yes, this is an assessment of how one “feels” about the police department. When a city sends its officers out without sufficient protection, because of a “fear” of “militarization”, that is exalting form over substance in my view. The message the police department received is that community sensibilities are more important than the officers lives. And yes, I am angry at that insensitive message, and shortsightedness. If it makes you feel more comfortable to categorize my reaction as “emotional”, go right ahead. But frankly, I think my view is based on more logic and common sense than that of those who are opposed, for all the reasons I have previously stated.

    I would also go one step farther. Is this really about “militarization” of the police, or more about anti-military sentiment? I am left to wonder.

    1. Tia Will


      “The one point we do agree on is that the police should have been given sufficient opportunity to make their case, and 3 City Council members chose not to. What were they afraid of?”

      So you do not feel that two years was ample time to explain to city leaders exactly why we needed this vehicle ?
      I think that the police made an extremely poor judgement call in not bringing this up prior to acquisition. If the police could so badly misjudge the perception of this by the community, might they also not make a similar judgement error in how to utilize the vehicle.

      We are just going to have to agree to disagree about this not representing “militarization” of the police. This vehicle was designed to be used in specific war situations overseas. It was not designed for use in American cities.
      To say that a piece of military equipment does not constitute “militarization” is nothing more than a word game.

      “Is this really about “militarization” of the police, or more about anti-military sentiment? I am left to wonder.”
      I can only answer this question for me. But I will.. It is anti violence sentiment. I believe that the most appropriate role of the police is the protection of the community, not escalation of situations. We have an actual case of a police chief saying the the “militarized” approach of his police at his command led to an escalation of violence at a previously peaceful protest. We have had another proponent of the MRAP, state that she feels that it is “overkill” but she is still in favor of it. I cannot support what I see as an inherently intimidating device that is much more likely to incite to increasing violence rather than prevent it.

      Again, I would have been open to presentation of actual data in opposition to my point of view. None was provided by the police despite two years in which to build a case.

  24. Edgar Wai

    The following is the second part of the exposition above.
    This part tries to describe when the police is too powerful.

    13) The categories of threats, normal citizens, and police are based on the instantaneous roles of the persons. The role of a person may change. A person that is once a threat can become a normal citizen, or a police, vice versa. To avoid confusion, the categories can be relabeled as “Threats”, “Good citizen”, and “Good police”.

    14) The conversion rate from being a good citizen or a good police to a threat depends on the moral uprightness of the person and the critical thinking of the person to discern a situation or information they receive.

    15) The more powerful the police is compared to the good citizens, the more strict requirement there should be in the requirement of selecting a person to assign police duties. The same goes for any external approval that restricts the use of force of the police. If a police force, as a team, is 10 times as powerful as a normal citizen, the combined effects of moral uprightness, critical thinking, and approval process should result in a convention rate from a good police officer to a threat that is 10 times as unlikely as the conversion rate from a good citizen to a threat.

    16) Such a rate could be estimated from empirical data. For example, the percentage of police officers convicted of a crime (including abuse of power) can be compared to the percentage of non-police citizen convicted of a crime. If the conversion rate of a police officer is just the same as a non-police citizen, The police force should not have any advantage against any single citizen. (Imagine the prehistoric period where people just fought with fists. If that prehistoric police force can act with a maximum force of 3 officers, the police force needs to be 3 times more up-right than a non-police citizen. The sheer fact that the police works as a team is a liability to the community that their access to forces needs to take care.)

    17) In the absence of empirical data about the conversion rates, a heuristic to assess the moral uprightness, critical thinking, and access to forces at both individual and departmental level. For example, for a piece of equipment or information that would make an officer 5 times as powerful as a normal citizen, if the access to that advantage is 2 times easier for the police officer to get, and the officer is 2 times as morally upright and 3 times as sharp in critical thinking, then the combined score for that officer on that advantage is 3 x 2 / 2 = 3, which is not enough for the power that such advantage could affect. In this example, one way to fix it is to make the advantage not easier, but just as difficult for the police officer to access. Then a score of 3 x 2 x 1 = 6 would be a rough justification for the access of that advantage to that specified officer.

    18) Advantages (equipment and training) that the non-police citizens would need to go out-of-state or steal to obtain (the same or something equivalent) would require a correspondingly high combination of moral uprightness and critical thinking for the police to grant custody from the community. Because of this, it is

    19) For any equipment or training that the public and the police both have access, the moral uprightness and critical thinking of the force only needs to be higher than a normal citizen enough to cover the advantage resulting in their teamwork and training. (Just because a rifle is publicly accessible, to be a police officer, the officer needs to pass additional moral and judgement requirements to offset the fact that officer would be part of a team (the police force). The team aspect itself is an advantage, thus a liability to the community that must be offset by higher moral and judgement standards. Those standards should be what were covered in police academy.)

    20) When the police wants to acquire an advantage (an equipment or training), the police should evaluate whether the force and individual officers have the required uprightness and judgement to offset justify their access to that advantage. This self-restraint should be a conscious process. Even if the community approves the police to have custody of any exclusive advantage, the conscious level of self-restraint is not dismissed.

    (Scenario: The community digs up a powerful alien artifact that is very dangerous but with no known method of destroying it. The community turns to the police chief, who has the combined highest score of being most morally upright with good judgement (and a good organizational leader) and request the police to take custody of the artifact. However, the police chief refuses to do so, because in his assessment, himself, or the force did not have the required score to offset the power of the object, not to mention the penalty that would incur if the police has exclusive access to it. Instead, the police chief suggested to bury the artifact deep in a hole at a relatively frequently traveled location, such that whoever wants to get it must cause huge commotion to retrieve it. )

    21) By derivation, the size of the police force is a liability even if funding is available to add personnel. A police chief should be conscious about this dynamics (this should be part of the critical thinking/judgement evaluation). As the size of the police force increases, the power ratio against a normal citizen might increase. The police force should reduce its own power if it has enough power to deal with the threats, but not enough collective moral and judgement to cover their advantages against normal citizen. The police force needs to re-assess the power ratios and ready to reduce its own power or reduce its access, or increase its uprightness and judgement standards.

    22) In the case where the threats are powerful enough that the police force needs advantages beyond what their uprightness and judgement could insure, the police force should take the initiative to ask the community for approval.

    Points to consider in acquiring an MRAP based on the above aspects:

    Departmental consideration:
    1. What is the departmental power ratio against one citizen if the police has the MRAP? (That is, if the whole department suddenly becomes evil and tries to attack the city, what would the casualty ratio be?)
    2. What is the uprightness ratio of the police compared to non-police citizens in the community?
    3. What is the judgement ratio …?
    4. What is the access restraint ratio …? (How easy it is for citizens to get the same advantage?)

    5. Does Uprightness x Judgement x Restraint > Power?
    .. “Yes” means the police has good enough moral, judgement, and self-restraint to wield that power for good use.
    .. “No” means the power is too much for the police to wield, further justification is needed.

    6. What is the power ratio of the police against the threats? (Assuming that the police is more effective than citizens in handling the threats assigned for the police)
    .. “Less than 1” means that the police is losing and does not have the necessary power to deal with the threat.
    .. “Bigger than 1” means that the police is winning. Any additional power would be more than necessary.

  25. Edgar Wai

    Evaluating the MRAP as a threat:

    The advantage of the MRAP is its ballistic armor. That advantage is irrelevant until the people want to fight back using lethal force. For the people to decide that the police is doing something that police should be killed, the people would first need to be on alert that the police is doing something.

    In that regard, the MRAP itself would gather a lot more attention than police in their patrol cars. It is less easy for the police to hide that the MRAP is deployed.

    In an urban setting, the MRAP cannot run over and crush cars like a typical tank can. Similar to normal police operations, the people need to yield to make way for the police, or their path could be blocked.

    The incremental threat that the MRAP would add seems small, if there is any, due to its visibility, which gives the people ample reaction time.

  26. Anon

    Tia: I don’t agree that this necessarily would have caused a community flap, so the Police Chief “should have known” and made his case 2 years ago. Had he quietly acquired the equipment, refitted it so it looked more like a police acquisition than a military one, and if Fergason had not happened, no one would have been the wiser or thought much about it. And yet the police would have had a valuable piece of protective equipment to use in dangerous situations.

  27. Tia Will


    I am hoping that I misunderstood your comment and that perhaps you can clarify.

    “Had he quietly acquired the equipment, refitted it so it looked more like a police acquisition than a military one, and if Fergason had not happened, no one would have been the wiser ”

    This read to me as though you thought it would have been a better idea for the police chief to essentially have snuck a piece of equipment into the town, converted it to look more acceptable doing this behind people’s backs so that they would be “none the wiser”. This seems to me to be an argument for an underhanded , behind the back of the citizens approach that I could never justify as desirable behavior for any city department. I am unwilling to place so much trust in any public entity to say that whatever their chief wants to do behind the backs of the citizens is fine and we will just all pretend that everything that they choose to do is fine. This is the antithesis of transparency in government and I honestly do not see how anyone could ever support it. Please correct me if I have misunderstood your position.

  28. Edgar Wai

    I admitted that Anon’s wording sounded fishy. If I knew more about the context of acquiring the MRAP I might have phrased is differently.

    When I saw the MRAP and Chief Black’s explanation, I did not feel that he was trying to hide anything. To me it felt like a routine task following the same process of how equipments are updated and replaced as how it had always been.

    The last time I heard anything new about police equipment might be the Taser. The ability to stun was quite new. The MRAP, on the other hand, does not have anything new compared to the Taser. To me, it was just a current species of armor vehicle. If the police were to buy a new armored vehicle from a company, I think that would appear quite spoiled and wasteful given the existing surplus MRAPs.

  29. Anon

    To Edgar: Yes, the Police Chief already had the authority to purchase the MRAP, so had no way of knowing it was going to cause such a flap. He had plans to refit it so it looked more like a Davis police vehicle. To my way of thinking he was being fiscally responsible in replacing a broken down useless piece of pricey equipment to keep his officers safe.

    1. Jim Frame

      The only thing Landy Black did wrong was not to foresee the symbolic impact of the MRAP acquisition upon the community. Had he done so, he could have asked for guidance from the city manager. I don’t consider it a major oversight on his part, though I note again that San Jose PD was aware of the symbolism, considered its MRAP acquisition in light of the potential damage to PD’s image, and ultimately decided to reject the vehicle.

      1. Matt Williams

        I tend to agree Jim. Robb Davis and I talked about the symbolism aspect of the MRAP last night. The power of the symbolism varies from person to person.

        I believe the Mace 391 discussions unfolded in a very similar way. For example, Don Shor’s arguments for proceeding with the placement of the conservation easements always impacted me as coming from a visceral and symbolic sensibility. On the other hand, Frankly’s arguments, which started as very practical and non-symbolic, in time took on a higher and higher level of visceral and symbolic nature. However, the respective symbolism couldn’t have been more diametrically opposed.

        In thinking about the community dialogue that Tia has called for, I wonder if consensus would have been built, or simply a clash of competing symbolism would have been played out.

        1. Tia Will


          I also am not sure that consensus could have been built. Consensus is certainly desirable, however, at the very least, a decision of this magnitude should be evidence and factually based and should present both pros and cons, not be founded solely on someone’s personal belief about how the vehicle “might function ” in cherry picked situations.
          i noticed that Chief Black’s presentation did not include any specific situations in which he felt that it would not be helpful although I am sure that these situations also exist.

    2. Matt Williams

      Anon, in a prior thread I asked you whether there is any record about how the vehicle that you refer to as “a broken down useless piece of pricey equipment” was used by the police department in its life time of service. Does any such record exist?

  30. Tia Will

    Anon and Edgar

    My feeling about police work is that it is fundamentally a matter of understanding the values of the community that they are charged with serving. While I understand that Chief Black’s intentions were good, I also understand that even if his actions were technically within his right to do so, they certainly demonstrated a lack of appreciation for how they would be interpreted by some in the community. I believe strongly in community policing. This type of policing is based on mutual respect and trust between the police and the community. And I believe that the police are employees and protectors of the citizens of the city they serve and that their actions must be consistent with the values of the citizens. If they are not so aligned, then they are not representing the community
    that they serve. I see no evil intent here, just a serious mistake in judgement. The acquisition of this vehicle, although technically within the right of the police to acquire, obviously did nothing to promote trust within the community. Now we can argue until the cows come home about how much difference timing around the Ferguson incident made, but the fact remains the same. Many of the citizens who spoke raised the issue of trust which I believe was negatively affected by this acquisition made without consultation with city leaders. I do not believe that this represented good judgement no matter how well intended.

    Good relations are based on trust in many situations. A marriage is one such relationship. Lets suppose that I am married and my husband knows that I favor small vehicles that do not pollute as much and that I have an aversion to large gas guzzling oversized 4 x 4 s which I believe are more dangerous because the individuals who drive them tend to overestimate their safety and thus drive more aggressively when in them. My husband believes that these kinds of vehicles are actually safer but has no data to prove it. It is just his firmly held belief. Now he is offered one of these vehicles by a family member for a mere six thousand dollars and maintenance. That six thousand will come out of our joint funds as will whatever maintenance is needed. Should he take it without consulting with me ? My answer would be “no”. Even if our financial arrangements allow him to use our mutually held funds for this purpose, I still believe he has the obligation to consult with me. He can, and should try to make his case if he feels strongly about it. But he certainly is using extremely poor judgement if he choses to acquire it without my input.

    1. Edgar Wai

      I think I understand your view, and I understand good relation is important.

      When I think of the police, I think of how I don’t want to be the police because I don’t want to have to get into a situation where someone is shooting at me and I can’t just flee. I agree that the police and the non-police should have a good relation, but I don’t think the police should have the entire burden of building maintaining that relation, given that they are already maintaining security.

      On top of my head I don’t see any other civilian profession that risks their lives more directly than the police. Yet apparently they get the most civilian hate.

      Imagine a police officer came home after a shoot out where two comrades and himself almost got killed. He stepped through the door and his wife said, “How dare you come home with a gun! You will scare the kids!”

      Davis is peaceful and safe for most people. It is disproportionally not as peaceful and safe for the police. Understandable, this would give them a different perspective. Between their perspective and the citizen-in-peaceful-town perspective is a gap. The police chief was trying to bridge that gap by showing the kind of weapons that the police faces. It seemed that it meant nothing for most people.

      In your reply, all I saw was your concern of how you feel. If you are asking the police to think ahead and consider your feelings, would it also make sense that you would have pinged the police two years ago and knew that their were looking for a replacement? Your reply mentioned being mutual, but when I read it in this context I only see your demand for the police to take care of you, but not the other way around.

      I think if my wife were a police officer, and she comes home and tell me that the department had to return the armor they got because they came from military surplus, even if I dislike the military, my primary concern would still be her safety. I would be asking:

      “Are you okay with not having it?”


      “Why did you even get it? What were you people thinking?”

    2. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > I have an aversion to large gas guzzling oversized 4 x 4 s

      Great in America we get to drive the cars we like…

      > which I believe are more dangerous because the individuals who
      > drive them tend to overestimate their safety and thus drive more
      > aggressively when in them.

      You often say you are “data driven”, but this “belief” is not connected to the data. Sure some people drive “aggressively” in 4x4s, but it is FAR less than the majority of cars. If you look at actual police reports of “aggressive driving”, “exhibition of speed” or “racing” 4x4s are WAY WAY down the list. I see way more hybrids speeding and weaving through traffic than 4x4s (Al Gore’s son was driving a Prius not a 4×4 when he got pulled over for going 100 mph). As far as safety people in bigger cars die less often when they are hit (again look at the actual data). I don’t think that we need the MRAP but I took enough physics to know when a bus hits me in the MRAP I’ll probably be OK (and not so lucky in a Miata or GEM car)…

      1. Tia Will

        South of Davis

        Oh my goodness. I was not making a statement of what I personally believe ! I was framing the discussion as one of maintaining trust when two people had differing perceptions of what constitutes safety and how unilateral decision making in this setting can be harmful to trust within that relationship. I chose to write in the first person. Please note that I used the phrase “let’s suppose”. I have done absolutely no research at all on the relative safety of various types of vehicles and thus have absolutely no opinion on this subject.

        I remain as always “data driven” and aware and willing to admit when my emotions are guiding, just as I did at City Council in separating my personal “feelings” about the MRAP from my comments.


        1. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          > I was framing the discussion as one of maintaining trust when
          > two people had differing perceptions of what constitutes safety
          > and how unilateral decision making in this setting can be harmful
          > to trust

          We agree that the city does not need a MRAP, but our relationship with the cops is MUCH different that that of a spouse and I don’t think the cops need to get the “community” to OK the switch from the old Crown Victoria police cars to the new Explorers (or run it by the city before a detective decides to switch his conceal carry gun from an old Colt Agent to a Glock G42)…

  31. Tia Will

    Nate Traeunicht just made a comment on another thread that I think is very applicable to this one as well.

    “Many challenges are still ahead, but the voice of the community is a very powerful thing.”

    How differently might the MRAP incident have played out if Chief Black had appreciated the power of the “voice of the community” in making the decision about how best to protect both the community and our police officers.

  32. Tia Will


    “I don’t think the police should have the entire burden of building maintaining that relation, given that they are already maintaining security.”

    In this I completely agree. However, this was not a situation in which the police and the public or even the elected officials had equal access to the information. What occurred here is that the police had information that we did not have. I certainly did not know, and from my communication with city officials, they also did not know that we had an armored vehicle that was “falling apart”. Without the requisite knowledge, the city council members, city manager, and public cannot be held accountable for what they did not know. For me, the correct process in the case of such a large item would have been the following:
    1. The police recognize the need to replace a major piece of equipment.
    2. They research the types of equipment available, how that equipment would be used, what the overall costs would be, how
    the equipment would fit in with other such equipment already available in the region, and what the downsides might be to
    such a piece of equipment.
    3. They prepare a balanced presentation with the pros and cons of the proposed acquisition and alternatives which might serve
    a similar purpose to the appropriate city leadership.
    4. The city leadership evaluates the presentation, considers the broader issues that may exist within the community from their
    perspective as elected or hired city leaders with consultation from the community as they see fit.
    5. Then and only then does the acquisition move forward. I would have no problem with “standing in line” while this process was
    playing out.

    This is how I believe that trust is built by both sides ( civilian and police ) being proactively considerate of and respectful of the others point of view. I think that I stated very clearly both at council and in my posts here that I do not believe that this should be primarily an emotionally based decision either favoring the automatic “we need this to protect our police” nor the “we don’t need a tank in our community “point of view although there is no doubt which emotionally driven point of view is closer to my own. The decision should be made collaboratively with joint decision making based on the evidence, not because “I” say so, regardless of who the “I” happens to be.

  33. Anon

    To Tia: I don’t think Chief Black showed any lapse in judgment – he tried to protect his officers in the most cost effective way possible. He had the authority to purchase the MRAP, could have repurposed it to look like a police vehicle, and there should have been no problem. But because news leaked that it was military as opposed to police surplus, certain vocal citizens were in an uproar. Nevertheless police officers need protection and are not getting it. So how does the city pay for that needed protection, despite the fact they could have had that protection for free? Are those same vocal citizens going to now tell police officers to go into a shooting situation without protection? Or are they going to cough up the $250,000 for a politically correct armored vehicle?

    1. Tia Will


      Well, this is clearly just one of those agree to disagree issues.
      Some information that I do not have that i would have to know before I could claim that I know that this was the most “cost effective” way to protect the police.
      1. How cost effective was the previous armored vehicle ?
      2. How many times was it used ?
      3. How many, if any lives, did it actually save ?
      4. Are there other less expensive or cost neutral means of providing the same level of protection to the police ?
      Chief Black simply did not address any of these issues in his presentation so there is no information to go on.

      I was not amongst those “in an uproar”, and I was completely willing to listen to factual information relevant to police safety.
      None was provided. That is a problem for me and I believe it was not optimal judgement. Again, an agree to disagree point.

  34. Anon

    To Matt: You would have to ask the police for that information. All I know is what the Police Chief said at the City Council meeting – the current armored vehicle broke down on its way to the last incident, and so was useless; and that this armored vehicle is of 1970’s vintage. I really don’t remember anything beyond that, other than some specific instances given where an armored vehicle would be necessary – some hypothetical, some in Davis, some elsewhere.

    1. Tia Will


      I really do not know the answer to that. I do have a question about your statement “without a back up plan”.
      I think one would have to ask the police what their interim back up plan has been for between whenever the previous armored vehicle broke down and the MRAP arrived. What were the plans until the MRAP was converted and a crew was appropriately trained in its use. I find it difficult to believe that there are no contingency plans at all, but of course that would be a question for the police. Just because we did have our own armored vehicle does not mean that this is the most cost effective or even the best way to protect our police. Perhaps this is a strategy whose time has come for re evaluation. I welcome a full exchange of ideas between city leaders and the police.

    2. Edgar Wai

      One of the reasons I disagree with the council decision is that the assignment of responsibility was incorrect.

      A person has the responsibility to compensate the damage they cause to others. Say my roommate was baking some food for guests for the night. When I passed by, I absentminded thought that I left the stove on and turned it off. As a result, the food could not be prepared on time, and I would be responsible even if I may not know how to compensate my roommate.

      A person cannot ethically make a decision that they cannot compensate for. Say my roommate was baking some food for guests again. When I passed by I did not like the smell of whatever he was baking. I asked my roommate what it was, and he said it was a traditional dish for his friend who’s dog had just passed away. The dish would maintain the spiritual bond between them so that they could find each other in afterlife. I asked if he could do it another day. He said tonight was the last night to do it. At that point, if I demanded him to stop, I wouldn’t know how to compensate because I had no clue how spirits work. Therefore I could not ethically force him to stop. I told him that dish smelled really bad for me, and he offered to give me money to dine out for the night.

      A person has ethical rights to refuse services that are meant to help them. Suppose I broke my arm and called for an ambulance. When the ambulance arrives, I see that it is a military surplus ambulance. At that point, I may still have to pay for the ambulance coming, but I have the rights to refuse getting into the ambulance.

      A person does not have the ethical rights to deny a service meant to help others. Suppose my neighbor broke his arm and called for an ambulance. As the ambulance was coming, I notice that it was a military surplus ambulance. At that point, regardless how much I dislike that, I cannot stop it from helping my neighbor if my neighbor allows that ambulance to help him. I could try to convince him to send the ambulance back, and even offer to drive him to the hospital instead, but it would be up to him to be convinced and make that decision.

      On the night the council decided to return the MRAP, the MRAP was on its way to replace the Swambulance. In addition to replace the Swambulance as a transportation vehicle, the MRAP was also meant to provide ballistic armor support at whatever situation that the police believe they could avoid injury or death. At that moment, if the council were to confiscate and return the MRAP, the council is responsible for providing an alternate (if the police accepts an alternate), and responsible for any injury or death resulting from not having the MRAP ready as planned by the police.

      If the council did not return the MRAP, and, for whatever reason someone is injured or killed because the MRAP was not ready, the council would not be responsible. Since we don’t know a way to resurrect people, the council cannot take responsibility and therefore has no ethical backing to be making a decision to return the MRAP. At that moment, only the police itself may ethically be making such decision. The council and the people may write to the police department and convince the police to do so, but they cannot do it for the police.

      When the council decided to return the MRAP, they are making a decision with potential damages to others (aka
      gambling with chips they don’t have):

      1. The lives that the MRAP may have saved if it was kept and become serviceable in the normal course of the police.
      2. An equivalent solution for the police without the MRAP
      3. An equivalent solution for the police without the MRAP that becomes serviceable at the same time or earlier than the MRAP
      4. An equivalent solution for the police without the MRAP that costs the same or less than the MRAP

      On that night, the people and council cited concerns that the MRAP would be abused, that the people would feel anxiety, and that the city would be focused on the MRAP instead of attending other issues. If the police decides to keep the MRAP, the police may have to address these concerns.

      However, in my evaluation, these concerns can be dealt with compared to death. Therefore, it was within ethical boundary if the police decided to keep the MRAP and address the concerns. The ethical decision right was on the side of the police. The council and the people did not understand this.

      The following is just some comments on on the concerns expressed by the council and the people if the discussed continued and the police wanted to keep the MRAP:

      About the MRAP being abused: The police should take the initiative to discuss the measures to define custody and find a protocol that would address mission creep. Some potential solutions were already mentioned, like requiring the council to approve the use of the MRAP.

      About anxiety: This may require a discussion that outlines the overall vision and plans of changes. It may include a gradual plan to “de-militarize” the police. It might be a team bounding exercise. It might be disclosing and adding transparent to police status and equipment acquisition.

      These are what the police should ethically do to address the concerns if they do choose to keep the MRAP.

      About distraction. For this one, I am not sure that the police needed to do anything. To me, this would just mean that the police should address the concerns directly with the people instead of going through the council. Going through the city council would divert city council resource. If the police caused concerns, the police should fix it, it shouldn’t need to drag the council into the problem.

    3. Edgar Wai

      Decision by authority or majority rule is not necessarily ethical.

      Just because the police has the authority to get stuff does not mean that it is free of all ethical responsibilities of its decision. And just because it is within the council’s authority to make decision does not mean that each decision could be ethically made.

      Between the people, the council, and the police, the council should firming know what decision can be made ethically what can’t, regardless what sort of authority is within legal boundary, because the council takes the role of the mediator.

  35. Tia Will


    Unless I have missed something in your post, your analysis starts after the MRAP was acquired and makes the assumption that the vehicle would perform in the manner described by the police. I feel that it is not correct to make these assumptions, and the analysis should start with correct process and evaluation prior to the decision to acquire. This has been my main concern from the beginning.

  36. Edgar Wai

    The process of how the police got the MRAP does not change the effects of the MRAP, although it would change the magnitude and type of concerns the people have.

    If the event was not that the police got the MRAP, but that the DLA had informed the police and us that the police could get the MRAP tonight, the situation would not change much for the MRAP. The police could still argue that, “Our Swamabulance needs to be replaced. The MRAP has ballistic armor to protect us from high power rifles. If we get it now, we can start using it in X weeks. It will save lives,…” etc. At that moment, if the city decides to reject the proposal, the city is still responsible for the OPPORTUNITY COST of not having it. If the police choose not to listen and get the MRAP, the police would still have to address the concerns that that decision creates, except now the police would not have to deal with the charge that they were not upfront or transparent about the acquisition.

    The truthfulness of the claims that the police made about the MRAP is irrelevant to how responsibilities are assigned. Even if the benefits of the MRAP are unverifiable, a unilateral decision to not have the MRAP would still assign the opportunity costs to the decision maker. If the decision is not unilateral (that the police becomes convinced that they should not get the MRAP), then the unverifiable benefits of the MRAP becomes irrelevant because then everyone share the same responsibility of the decision. The same is true if the police decides to keep the MRAP unilaterally, they would be assigned the responsibilities of any damage it may cause.

    The supporting argument for the MRAP was about saving officer and citizen lives. The opposing argument, to be at the same level, would have to argue based on citizen lives destroyed were the MRAP is kept. Otherwise they are not on the same ethical level to be weighed. At argument on police lives that it would destroy because the MRAP is not as effect as it seems, would be irrelevant if the police believes otherwise, because only the police can take responsibilities for their own lives.

    The discussion on how the decision could have been made is not unimportant, but it is irrelevant to how the decision to return the MRAP was a decision the council could not ethically impose. The opposition argument had not reached the same level of risk. If the people are unhappy about the MRAP, that is primary a problem for the police to handle once the concern is expressed. The council need not insert itself and make an ultimatum until the police ignores the concerns and does not address them. Being presence and aware is the lowest level of involvement. Imposing an ultimatum is a few levels of escalation ahead. Escalation beyond what the situation calls for harms trust. It is the council that is harming the trust in this decision.

    Similarly the discussion on the actual effects of MRAP is also not unimportant, but irrelevant to the assignment of responsibilities. If you want the police to stop using the MRAP beacuse it will kill more police officer than it would save, the primary target of that claim if the police themselves. They don’t have to have evidence to prove that it is safe for them because they are already vouching with their lives. If you want the police to stop using the MRAP because it will kill more citizens, and the police decides to keep the MRAP, the discussion would focus on the specifics on how exactly more citizens would be killed so that the police could address those concerns.

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