For those who are tiring of the MRAP debate, sorry, it is not going away. The raid on Wednesday has pushed the Davis police, both behind the scenes and in public, to make another push for the council to re-examine the MRAP issue.
Local resident Heidy Kellison was interviewed by the local online news site, iSeeDavis, stating that the decision by the council last month to send the MRAP (mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle) back was hasty, and Lt. Tom Waltz of the Davis Police Department told the reporter in that story that there “is quite a market for firearms” in the community and the region.
Police sources say that the police department had to rely on two armored vehicles from neighboring agencies to carry out the raid on the Royal Oak trailer park. Police told other sources that, when they deployed their old armored vehicle, it broke down upon arrival at the scene. They also had to rely on an old armored bank car that Woodland has. Neither vehicle has proven effective against the weapons collected.
The Davis Human Relations Commission heard a similar account from Lt. Ton Phan at a public meeting on Thursday night.
While some have argued that this raid, which uncovered a small cache of weapons, is a wake up call for the city council to re-think the MRAP, proponents for the MRAP seem to be missing a number of key points.
First of all, Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, who attended the HRC meeting on Thursday night, told commissioners that, even with a small amount of push back from the community to keep the MRAP, sentiment in terms of emails, letters, comments and other communications are still running probably 9 to 1 against keeping the MRAP.
This is the same problem that the council had from the start – an effort to go against public opinion would likely force community residents to go to a ballot initiative or referendum. Such an effort would not only be polarizing to the community, it would be time consuming and a distraction at a time when the council desperately needs to have the community to come together – whether it be on a parcel tax or innovation parks to help the city solve its fiscal problems.
But, secondly, unlike the live shooter situation which would arise quickly and without warning, the raid involved four months of planning. The police and some MRAP proponents have argued that we cannot rely on the availability of such a vehicle from other agencies, when the time comes.
However, in this case, what do we see? The Davis Police Department, through its own SAFE Team, worked collaboratively with Yolo Narcotics Enforcement Team (YONET), Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, Woodland and West Sacrament Police Departments, Yolo County Probation Department, California Department of Corrections Special Service Unit, Yolo County Bomb Squad, Sacramento Police Department, and California Highway Patrol on the raid, in order to serve the warrants.
On the one hand we are hearing police arguing that we must have our own vehicle because we cannot count on the availability of other agencies to provide the equipment, but on the other hand, without inter-agency cooperation in the first place, this raid could not have taken place.
Unfortunately, we are back focusing on the MRAP when that is not the most serious potential problem in this entire story. The Vanguard has received a number of complaints from the police, public officials and residents of the Royal Oak mobile home park about the conditions of the park.
The police – though some of this is disputed by attorneys for the mobile home park management – claim that they raided at least five residences in the Royal Oak mobile home park, condemning one as being uninhabitable.
One of my concerns in all of this has been the lack of attention until very recently that these problems have received, at least from public officials. In a more general sense, allowing such conditions to fester in areas of our community provides a breeding ground for narcotics trafficking, drug dealing, weapons and ammunition.
Focusing on these areas of concern will allow the community to have the safety that it needs without the encroachment that it fears from the militarization of the police. It is easy to look at the tool that police believe would offer greater protection, but we also must look at the years of failure of leadership that helped bring about this problem in the first place.
While we believe that our local police force and its leaders have the best interests of the community in mind, there is a weighing of considerations at play here. We have seen first hand, following Ferguson and the events that have transpired there over the last month or two, a pushback from communities about the blurring of the lines between civilian police and the US military.
It was not long ago – this November will serve as the third anniversary – that our neighbors at UC Davis shocked our senses by dousing protestors with pepper spray.
Finally, the push back on the MRAP still seems unlikely to succeed. On Thursday, Lucas Frerichs did not seem to be changing his view at all.
Mayor Dan Wolk has already dug in, with strong quotes in the New York Times.
“This thing has a turret — it’s the kind of thing that is used in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Mayor Dan Wolk, the New York Times reported. “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.”
Robb Davis was most outspoken at the Davis City Council meeting a month ago, and there is no sign that he is backing down, either.
At the end of the day, the city and police need to recognize that the community remains sensitive to issues of militarization of the police and, therefore, they need to look for other ways to keep the residents safe from potential dangers that may lurk.
—David M. Greenwald reporting