It has been sixty days since the Davis City Council made national news by becoming among the first communities to decide to return its military surplus equipment – in this case, a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored rescue vehicle (MRAP).
On a 3-1-1 vote, with Brett Lee in opposition and Rochelle Swanson abstaining, the city council directed staff to return the MRAP in the most expeditious and low cost manner within 60 days; review donated or surplus material acquisition noticing guidelines, to assure that major donated (to be defined by staff) or surplus equipment received by any department is reviewed by the city manager and city council; and provide a public update on public safety issues related to active shooter situations and search warrants, considering alternatives that do not represent the repurposing of a military vehicle to face them.
Under the California Public Safety Procurement Program (CPSPP) for the federal 1033 Program, property must be placed into the intended use within a year of receipt. If that does not occur, “the LEA [law enforcement agency] must coordinate a transfer of property to another LEA or request a turn-in to return the property to the nearest State Disposition Services Site.”
Options for disposing of the MRAP in the most expeditious and low cost manner include:
- Transferring the property to another LEA that participates in the 1033 Program. This option is essentially free because numerous participating law enforcement agencies have requested we transfer the vehicle to them. Regardless of local preference, the 1033 Program has final authority to determine the vehicle’s destination.
- Turn in the property to the nearest State Disposition Services Site. This option is also essentially free, and because the vehicle is in ready condition for transfer, the 1033 Program would immediately turn the vehicle over to a program participant that is already on the waiting list to receive an armored rescue vehicle.
Staff notes that, while the council directed staff “to create a policy that applies to major donated or surplus equipment acquisition,” the 1033 Program represents a loan to the local agency, rather than a donation where the vehicle or other equipment would become the property of that community.
Staff suggests that the council adopt a policy applicable specifically to the 1033 Program that would require “requests for certain equipment be approved in advance” if that equipment meets certain criteria.
The council would avoid micromanagement by authorizing the police chief “to procure small tools and equipment including, but not limited to, items such as furniture, range supplies, uniform equipment and clothing, firearms, computers, printers, radios, electronics, binoculars, ballistic helmets and vests.”
Similar to other policies, city manager “authorization is required if the annual maintenance cost of any piece of or set of equipment is more than $10,000 or will have significant impact upon an internal service fund, or its acquisition will require a subsequent appropriation for maintenance.”
City council authorization would be a requirement “for the procurement of vehicles, drones, and aircraft.”
Analysis: Policy Meets the Letter of Council Direction
The city staff addressed two issues – the return of the vehicle and a policy to prevent similar snafus in the future, as the council was caught unaware and only found out about the acquisition after the fact. But the Vanguard believes that the staff recommendations do not address legitimate concerns by the police about safety issues.
As we noted on Friday, it is easy to say to return the vehicle. However, as we saw with the raid at the Royal Oak mobile home park, there is a need for an armored vehicle as the armored vehicles we had access to were not sufficient and they broke down.
However, how many times a year is the need going to arise for the police to serve a high-risk warrant? Some have suggested that we simply give our MRAP to Woodland and use it when the need arises, but that misses the point of those who object to the militarization of police. It limits militarization in Davis, but only Davis.
Just as we have joint power authorities and regional solutions for other issues, to the Vanguard it makes the most sense to have a regional solution to armored vehicles.
For the use of high-risk warrants, the cities in Yolo County are often working in concert anyway. To use the Royal Oak raid as an example, participants were YONET, Davis Police, Yolo County Sheriff, Woodland Police, West Sacramento Police, Yolo County Probation, CDCR, Yolo County Bomb Squad, Sacramento Police Department, and the California Highway Patrol.
Based on this, we suggested the cities in Yolo County get together, purchase a vehicle or two that can be used for raids and have a joint powers agreement on the use of both the vehicle and a regional SWAT team.
One thing is clear, the majority of the council, including Mayor Dan Wolk, Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, and Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, are unlikely to change their minds about returning the MRAP.
Mayor Dan Wolk has been very out front on this issue. A few weeks ago he laid it out in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, entitled, “Quiet town of Davis says no thanks to police tank.”
“It is my hope that our community’s response to the MRAP sends two messages to the powers that be in Washington, D.C.,” he writes. “The first is that we need to address the militarization of our local police forces in this country. The images of militarized police in Ferguson confronting protesters have justifiably shocked the nation. But Ferguson is just one of a number of communities that have received military surplus equipment.”
Mr. Wolk adds, “Don’t get me wrong — police preparedness is absolutely important, including in Davis. But providing MRAPs to communities like ours makes absolutely no sense. I am heartened to see that President Obama and members of Congress are calling for a re-examination of the 1033 Program, and I hope they make some significant changes to it.”
Davis is not facing this issue alone. Woodland is also discussing the possibility of acquiring a vehicle and there are concerns about the need in Woodland, as well. It therefore seems a regional approach might be able to deal with community-based concerns about militarization of police, while dealing with police concerns about officer and public safety.
—David M. Greenwald reporting