Last week the Vanguard learned that the MRAP had indeed left town and gone to Woodland. The decision to bring the MRAP to Woodland was a 4-1 vote, which differed sharply from the decision the Davis City Council first made in August, and reiterated in October, to return the vehicle.
That is a choice and decision that is between Woodland and its citizens – although a number of people are planning to go protest the decision at the next Woodland City Council meeting tomorrow night.
At the same time, the city of Davis has to be very clear, the objection to the MRAP was not based on it merely being located within the city limits. Certainly part of our concern was the need for the city of Davis to have its own vehicle – when the need, that has arisen, has been less than a handful of times per month.
But there have been broader concerns raised in the community about the militarization of police, as well as the adaptability of the MRAP to the urban environment. Neither of these concerns change with the relocation of the vehicle from Davis to Woodland.
We called, at the time, for a regional approach to police armored vehicles as the need arises to make high-risk warrant calls. These are situations that do not arise frequently enough to justify our own vehicle, however, at a regional level, the availability of one or two armored vehicles is useful. However, the Vanguard called for the acquisition of a non-military vehicle. Bringing in a military vehicle from Woodland or West Sacramento would run counter to the views expressed by the public in August and by the city council twice.
In October, 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 argued 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, on 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.”
Do those concerns change if the vehicle is housed in Woodland? No.
“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.”
In their community discussion in November, Assistant Chief Pytel then made a presentation that illustrated the police’s side of the MRAP story. Darren Pytel said that, before the acquisition of the MRAP, the Davis Police had no mobile armored protection. Access to an armored vehicle was limited, with a delayed response. The tactical team had access to an armored vehicle, but the equipment was outdated, limited and increasingly failing.
Darren Pytel told the audience that he didn’t think the MRAP would fly in Davis, but after talking with his team, he became convinced it was necessary.
Assistant Chief Pytel argued that the dynamics of policing has changed with AB 109 and will do so even more with Prop. 47. Since 2010, felony arrests are up 105 percent. Drug related arrests are up 163 percent since 2010. Robberies are up 27 percent since 2010.
“So we’re dealing with more and more crime,” he said. “Keep reading the news and I think you will be seeing and reading a lot more about that in the coming years.”
He argued that, while there are positive areas of AB 109 and Prop. 47, “realize it’s going to take years to actually change the system to reduce recidivism… But we’re going to see a couple of rough years here, probably pretty soon.”
But the Assistant Chief acknowledged that, not only did he believe that the community would not accept the MRAP, but that it also wasn’t the most ideal vehicle for the urban setting. However, he argued that, given budgetary considerations and the cost of the MRAP, he became convinced that this was the best alternative.
The bottom line here is that the same objections to the MRAP exist with the vehicle in Woodland. The Davis City Council needs to make it clear that the police cannot get the MRAP in through the back door of Woodland.
If the city needs a solution for the safety of police, we need to allocate the money needed for a civilian armored vehicle such as the BearCat that Brett Lee and Rochelle Swanson pushed back in October. Given our infrequent need, we would prefer a regional approach, but if Woodland and West Sacramento are satisfied with their MRAPs, then we need to go it alone.
The issue is militarization of police, and that issue does not stop at the Davis border.
—David M. Greenwald reporting