The Davis City Council is willing to look further into the costs of acquiring a Police Protective Vehicle (PPV), however, the police acknowledged that it was not a spending priority and two of the councilmembers who voted to send back the MRAP expressed doubts about the need and fit in our community.
Unlike last fall, there was little public interest in the item. Councilmember Rochelle Swanson asked that staff and police bring back a report showing a continuum of vehicles available – police protection vehicles, not military vehicles – along with pictures and pricing, in order for the council to make a full evaluation.
Councilmember Brett Lee seconded the motion. Robb Davis offered a friendly amendment about looking into partnering with UC Davis on the vehicle.
Councilmember Lee noted that, eight months ago, “we heard some concerns raised about the militarization aspect and also the specific concern about this being a military vehicle. We also heard concerns about the acquisition process.”
He continued, “I think since that vote, we’ve eliminated the concern about the military vehicle. We had a couple of concerns raised that the military vehicle symbolically was problem and physically wasn’t the most appropriate vehicle to be used in a civilian environment just in terms of maneuverability and did its purpose match what our purpose might be.”
He stated, “I think those concerns have been addressed and now eight months later, the process has clearly been transparent.”
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis said that, back in October, he was interested in hearing about civilian options that are more maneuverable and can be used in a broad array of potential situations in the community.
“The only caveat I put in there is that I really felt and still feel strongly that we need to pursue, intentionally, the university to see if they’d be willing to jointly acquire, manage, and train in the use of it,” the Mayor Pro Tem said. He noted that they are “twin cities” and have expressed the need for such a vehicle.
“I’m not sold yet on the notion of pursuing a police protective vehicle,” Councilmember Lucas Frerichs stated. He was willing to support the motion and perform due diligence on the issue to inform the council. He noted that, prior to the acquisition of the MRAP, the city utilized the Peacekeeper through West Sacramento and he said he believes that kind of arrangement continues to take care of the needs of the city.
Councilmember Frerichs said that there needs to be a police oversight surrounding the usage of the vehicle. “If we proceed,” he said, “I think we should be looking at specific language regarding the use of dynamic entries or high risk warrant service.” He noted that this is the general policy of the Davis Police Department anyway, but he would like to formalize it to see “the more specific nuts and bolts as to how it would potentially be utilized if it were to be acquired.”
Councilmember Frerichs also expressed concern about the initial costs along with ongoing costs. “I do believe it’s important to know what all the costs are, not just the initial purchase,” he added.
Mayor Dan Wolk said, “I will be supporting this motion in so far as I see it just providing council more information.”
However, the mayor continued, “I remain deeply skeptical of the wisdom of pursuing this.”
He asked Chief Landy Black, if the council had $175,000 or $400,000, “my guess is your top priority would not be acquiring an armored vehicle.”
Chief Black responded, “When we talked about this last fall, that’s exactly what I said and I remain committed to that view. When we prioritized our police operations – that did not end up high on our priorities. The utility of the vehicle juxtaposed against the low price [with] the 1033 Program, made it an easier thing to acquire at that time.”
He added, “The conversation did expose us to an entirely different dynamic and it becomes sort of a priority through the discussion, but I would not want to change the direction the police department is going in its normal daily police operations to acquire this vehicle.”
The chief did add, however, that he believes that there are much more economical ways to acquire this vehicle. He thinks due diligence can put this into the area of a much more manageable expense.
Mayor Wolk turned to City Manager Dirk Brazil and said, “When you’re looking citywide, if the city had $400,000 to put somewhere, I imagine that if it’s certainly not the police department’s top priority to put it there, I imagine citywide there’s even a greater precedent of needs over an armored vehicle.”
Dirk Brazil responded, “The budget reflects basically what the department heads put forward – this is what we need – and that’s what you see in front of you. But obviously the budget is something that can be amended by the five of you.”
“Generically across the board, I don’t think it’s the most important thing,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about streets and roads, we’ve talked about pools, we’ve talked about infrastructure needs – but you know we have a lot of needs.”
Dan Wolk added, “It’s my hope when it does come back that the council doesn’t think about it in a vacuum .” He said, even if UC Davis is interested or if it comes in at $175,000, “that the council consider that there may be other needs for that funding.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting