The city of Davis will be returning the MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle), as the council reaffirmed its August vote by a 3-2 margin, with Councilmembers Brett Lee and Rochelle Swanson dissenting. For a full discussion of the vote, see this morning’s article.
Robb Davis made extensive comments challenging the usefulness of the vehicle. (See the video below for his full comments).
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis told Councilmember Lee that he was willing to put resources into a vehicle that provides protection to the police, however he would argue that the MRAP is really not an appropriate vehicle for our community.
“I would be very willing to put resources into a vehicle that provided protection,” he said. “It’s not just that symbols matter, which they do. I tried to speak to that. Some people agreed with that perspective, some people didn’t.
“Fundamentally I don’t think the vehicle, the MRAP, is adapted to our situation,” he continued. “It does one thing well, it protects people inside.” Citing military literature, he argued, “There’s a lot of disagreement about the value of this vehicle.
“One of the reasons we’re seeing them show up in our communities is because they haven’t worked very well except for one thing – as you’re going down a road, a pretty straight road, a flat road, if a bomb goes off, it will protect everybody inside. That we know. Everyone agrees with that,” the Mayor Pro Tem explained. “Where the disagreement comes in is what happens if you have to wheel it into a tight spot.” He said up hills, uneven terrain, even up driveways are problematic for the vehicle.
“What happens in an urban environment?” he continued. “The consensus there is that it’s not very well adapted.” He called it “a product of really a broken military system. There were five companies that made these.” He said when they “got into theater they couldn’t even find the parts to repair these because they’re specialized parts.”
The mayor pro tem said that we have been told it’s just a truck and the cost to repair it is minimal, but “the reality is that the experience in military situations around the world is that it’s been a complete headache.”
Robb Davis said, “If I were to make a prediction today… I would say in about five years there’s going to be a lot of jurisdictions that are looking to get rid of these things. They just aren’t adapted to the situation.
“I believe very personally that we need to create a very clear line of separation between military and police,” he stated. He reiterated his trust and appreciation for the local police, but added, “I said it will hurt [that trust], it will, if we bring military equipment in.” He emphasized that he was more worried about the decisions by civilian leaders than by the police in situations such as what arose in Ferguson or at UC Davis on the Quad.
“Given all of that,” he said “I have moved in the last six weeks. I’ve moved to an understanding that the situation in our city has changed over the past ten years… That it is more dangerous, that there are more weapons. That there are more people with mental health problems with access to those weapons.
“One of the things that should disturb all of us is that one of the groups that you [Chief Landy Black] are concerned about are people that are tactically trained, who know how to use high powered weapons and the tactics to counter your tactics, and have PTSD,” he said. “Who are those people? They’re former military. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m a little bit offended that the US Military would send us a $600,000 piece of equipment… but not give us the wherewithal to treat in our own communities the root cause of violence. I think it’s something we need to look [at] in our hearts and ask if that’s the direction we want our country to go.”
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis moved the item, and Lucas Frerichs seconded it. Councilmember Rochelle Swanson said that she could not support it without an amendment.