My View: Council Unlikely to Reconsider MRAP


Prior to the New York Times article, if you would have asked me, I would have believed there was a chance that the MRAP would get reconsidered by the city council. However, I think that door closed – if it was ever open – with the Times article.

There were three votes to return the vehicle, with Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis being the most outspoken against it at the city council meeting. In recent conversations, his view does not appear to be softening.

Perhaps Mayor Dan Wolk was the most likely to flip, but his initial reaction was strong, “I can’t imagine why Davis needs a tank. It’s in a city garage and I hope it stays there.”

He seconded the motion that Robb Davis made. And if he is softening, his comments to the New York Times do not show it.

“This thing has a turret — it’s the kind of thing that is used in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Dan Wolk, the mayor, the New York Times reports. “Our community is the kind of community that is not going to take well to having this kind of vehicle. We are not a crime-ridden city.”

The mayor added: “When it comes to help from Washington we, like most communities, have a long wish list. But a tank, or MRAP, or whatever you choose to call it, is not on that list.”

That leaves Lucas Frerichs, but he was strongly opposed to it when the news initially came out and I doubt very much he is going to change his position.

So the bottom line is that there were three votes when the council made their decision, and there is zero evidence that those votes are even softening, let alone changing.

So I will admit to being caught a little off-guard by an article in the Enterprise entitled, “Some say council needs to reconsider MRAP,” which opens with, “Is the Davis MRAP getting a bad rap?”

My question is, who is saying this? The Enterprise notes that “recently, comments and concerns from another part of the community, a part that agrees with City Councilman Brett Lee’s concern that the council is acting too quickly, have surfaced, raising the issue of whether the council needs to take a second look.”

The article quotes a letter from Hazma El-Nakhal which stated, “The world is changing and Davis is not immune to all the changes.. . Many times during the past few years, we have heard of shootings in schools, restaurants, theaters, on the streets and in homes. Davis is a small, peaceful, university community. But remember what happened in Santa Barbara, another peaceful, university community, a few months ago.”

Who else locally? None that I can see.

The article quotes Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Payne County Sheriff R.B. Hauf of Oklahoma, and David Vossbrink, a spokesperson for the city of San Jose, but no further local commenters.

There is really nothing wrong with the article, but when you say some are calling for the council to reconsider MRAP and you cite only one local resident who wrote a letter to the editor, that’s not a lot of weight behind the headline.

It is interesting seeing the views of the Oklahoma sheriff and a spokesperson for the city of San Jose, but what bearing does this have on Davis?

Mayor Pro Tem Davis put forward a three-part motion. First, he said, “We instruct staff to return with options for disposing with the MRAP in the most expeditious and low cost manner within sixty days.” Second, “That we review donated or surplus material acquisition noticing guidelines to assure that major donated or surplus equipment … acquisitions by any department are reviewed by the city manager and city council.”

Third, “That we proceed with a very public update of the public safety issues related to active-shooter situations, warrants, and that we look at the solutions that do not represent repurposing of a military vehicle to face them and we hold public participatory forums to publicly share ideas on the options.”

In his comments to council prior to his motion, Mayor Pro Tem Davis indicated that he felt the council needed to weigh the probability of the need to use this vehicle in the community as well as the chances that it would be effective if the situation arose.

He further noted that we need to ask ourselves how far we should go to reduce our risks down to zero.

Mayor Pro Tem Davis said that “symbol matters,” and “we are a species that uses symbol” and “this symbolizes the most destructive force on the planet which is the US Military. I think we have to acknowledge that.”

He told the police chief, “I appreciate the trust that you’ve built in this community… this will hurt it.”

Councilmember Brett Lee did not necessarily indicate support for the MRAP. He simply saw a flawed process that brought the vehicle without much consideration, and did not see the motion in the other direction to be changing that objection.

Brett Lee stated, “I do not support the motion because I think it makes the same mistake that got us to this situation which is we should discuss what the need is, and then pick what the most appropriate item is to address that need.” If we decide we do not need any equipment, we can choose not to acquire anything.

“In retrospect we probably should have been involved (in the decision), given the nature of the acquisition,” he said. “To just return it, without actually having had that discussion… if we return it, then we don’t have the ability to get it back. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

However, given our analysis above, I don’t see any way that the vote breakdown changes.

—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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  1. Tia Will

    “The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

    This quote from the Brown Act borrowed from the article on the hiring of a new city manager is,in my opinion equally as relevant to the controversy around the MRAP. The people, as the designators of authority and the funders of that authority, have a right either directly, or through their elected representatives “to decide what is good for the people to know”. In this case, many in our community felt that it would have been best to know the intent of the police department regarding the acquisition of this vehicle in advance.

    1. Frankly

      The challenge here is related to the informed and uninformed. The people of this State have routinely yielded their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them as a result of their ignorance to the consequences of the actions of those agencies… and that ignorance is routinely exploited by the State.

    1. tribeUSA

      SOD–it was news to me that the school districts even had their own police forces. Regarding weapons such as grenade launchers, do they have problems with, er, combative students? Or are they just looking for an edge in cross-town football rivalries?

  2. South of Davis

    I could not find a way to post on the “comments wanted thread” and wanted to note that I hope that we can get the recent comments back under the ads and change the font color in the comments box (so it does not look like I am typing in invisible ink)

    1. Matt Williams

      Thanks for the feedback SoD. Comments are now being taken in the feedback needed thread. The other two issues you have identified have been reported to the development team. We hope to have them resolved shortly.

  3. Dave Hart

    The MRAP remains out of scale for Davis. Brett Lee needs to recognize it is too much armor, too much expense, too much bravado for Davis. If the DPD and the City Council feel we need to be ready for a mass shooter, then they need to begin the search for an armored vehicle that weighs less than half of the MRAP and that requires far less readiness training. In any case, the MRAP is just stupid.

  4. Tia Will

    I will continue to defer judgment on the need for some form of armored vehicle until we have heard from the police the statistics on how the previous armored vehicle was used and how many lives it has been estimated to have saved. Maybe we need some type of armored device, maybe we don;t, but I honestly do not see how that could be ascertained with no information. Hopefully the three provisions of Robb Davis’ proposal will lead us in this direction.

  5. Tia Will

    “Part of Robb Davis’ motion was to get rid of the MRAP.”

    True, but my comment was not about the MRAP. My comment was about the need for an armored vehicle at all since it appears that the intent here was to replace an obsolete armored vehicle. So for me, the question is more basic than the desirability of the MRAP.

    It is about the necessity of an armored vehicle. The police seem to believe that one is needed. My questions are very basic. How many times has the armored vehicle been used ? How many lives has it saved ? An armored vehicle, MRAP or otherwise is no bargain at any price if it is not needed. Actual, demonstrated need, not hypothetical need. I am not insensitive to the beliefs of the police. I would not even insist on evidence from our own community. But please, some evidence at least from similar communities on how it has been used to protect, not to intimidate, but to protect.

  6. justme

    Shooting at UCD, this vehicle can be used to get Police in or victims out… This vehicle is not there… Are we then going to hear masses complain that the Police did not do enough to save victims??? Or that the due to Police not getting in quick enough there were more victims than there should have been??? I dont expect my kitchen to catch fire but I have a fire extinguisher on hand at all times……..

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