Guest Commentary: Say No to Militarization of Police in Yolo County

By Cherie Goodenough

Item 16 on the Consent Agenda of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, February 21:

Authorize the Sheriff’s Office to apply for certification to participate in the Law Enforcement Support Office Program which allows local law enforcement agencies to access, request and acquire excess equipment from the Department of Defense; and consent to the Sheriff’s Department receiving a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, if awarded, through this program. (No general fund impact) (Prieto).

Late afternoon last Thursday, the Yolo County Sheriff’s office added the above item to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors meeting agenda.  The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP) it mentions is the vehicle pictured above.  It would be the third such vehicle available for deployment locally, as both the Woodland and West Sacramento Police Departments already have one.  The Board should vote No on this vehicle, and here’s why:

The militarization of police sends a symbolic message to citizens of the divide between them and law enforcement.  With our communities already on edge with the recent ICE raids in southern CA – the Washington Post is reporting today on a new plan by the administration that includes deputizing local forces for immigration enforcement – and with a widespread, engaged citizenry regularly exercising their right to peaceful protest, the signal from law enforcement should be one of engagement, not armament.

Law enforcement will use the tools it has, which unfortunately often results in escalation.  Standing Rock, Ferguson and Baltimore stand out as recent examples where, agree or disagree with the politics of the movements, the police have responded with extreme aggression, surely in response to what they perceived the threat to be.  But here in Yolo County we need to look no further than the use of military grade pepper spray on a bunch of kneeling students at UC Davis to see the risks inherent in arming our police as if they are an offensive force.  Did any of the officers involved in that incident wake up that morning and think, “Today is the day I finally get to use the pepper spray!”  Of course not.

A leading reason for the misuse of a militarized police force is the lack of oversight that often accompanies the acquisition of surplus military equipment.  What is true nationally is true with the Yolo County Sheriff.  While Sheriff Prieto says the MRAP would not be used for crowd control, the list of examples listed for reasons to deploy is vague, and there has been no plan for oversight and deployment made public.  When does a demonstration at the airport become a “critical incident” that would bring out the MRAP?  The presence of these vehicles in our community presents a risk to public safety.

It is conceivable that an argument could be made to tolerate this militarization if there were a compelling public or officer safety need. There have been two Yolo County Sheriff officers killed in the line of duty since 1943, and neither would have been prevented by an MRAP.   Recent flooding demonstrates a need for specialized, all-terrain vehicles for response, but vehicles specifically suited for this purpose are available through the same Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) program that would bring the MRAP, and don’t have a gun turret.  Sheriff Prieto himself angered concealed carry advocates when he said applicants need to “provide us with a reasonable need for it.” Surely the Sheriff’s department should be held to the same standard.

Cherie Goodenough is a systems engineer and sole proprietor of Crux Consulting Solutions.  She is a Woodland resident, who has also lived in Davis and Capay.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Tia Will

    Thanks for the article Cheri. I would like to add to your reference to the pepper spray incident. During this same event when the pepper spray was used on peacefully demonstrating students, now Police Chief Pytel could be seen moving through a group of protesters and onlookers peacefully talking with them and moving them gently aside to clear a path. These two images represented for me a stark differences in the two approaches, one community based and peaceful, the other an egregious and unnecessary use of military style force. Same event, two very different approaches with different outcomes. As a community, we should be choosing the Pytel over the Pike approach at every opportunity.

  2. Cecilia EscamillaGreenwald

    Thank you for your article Cherie. It is unsettling that military equipment like the MRAP  is being dispersed throughout the U.S. as “free” when in fact it will come at a hefty price to communities. The price? 1) Maintenance of Machi art that is old and outdated and then used to justify newer military machinery; 2) The price of communities feeling unsafe – feeling like we live in a war zone when we don’t; 3) The price of gradually moving away from successful, community policing to a “Police State.”  The list goes on, but I” glad to live in Yolo County where residents care about the type  of environment we have for our families.

  3. Mike Hart

    The expansion of domestic terrorist groups like AntiFa require the ability to deal with them when necessary so I support the MRAP.  I respect the concerns of many and agree that it really is up to local community values, but I personally feel that it is a good decision to provide the best possible protection for our police.

      1. Keith O

        Greg Brucker February 20, 2017 at 9:52 am
        The MRAP is a visual sign of the militarization of civilian forces. This program was ignorantly started by Clinton, and only slowed down a bit by Obama. Sadly and frustratingly, it wasn’t ended.
        Given the authoritarian, really, totalitarian threats to our democratic republic from a major domestic enemy of the judiciary, constitution, and bill of rights, this only more so signifies the current push by hair furor and the new authoritarian republican party toward making our great republic into a fascist police state run by white supremacists with neo-nazi tendencies.

        You must be reading a lot of fake news too.

        1. Mike Hart

          wow- that quote… amazing.  Do you ever come out from your bunker?  “the new authoritarian republican party toward making our great republic into a fascist police state run by white supremacists with neo-nazi tendencies.”  really?  You actually wake up in the morning and thing that this is what is going on in the world?  There is nothing in this sentance that has any basis in reality…


        1. Colin Walsh

          Mike, How many MRAPs do you think they need in Yolo county to address your AntiFa concerns? There are already 2. Do you think more than an MRAP is needed? Abrams Tanks, or combat helicopters?

        2. Greg Brucker

          Mr. Hart,

          Are you really calling a group that originally formed around the world against Italian and Nazi fascism, that existed in the US as a counter to the pro-nazi American groups (and in America was never violent when it was a thing in the 30s and 40s) domestic terrorists today?


          Talk about spreading fake news that takes the side of pro-nazi groups…..



        3. Mike Hart

          How and why an organization was created and how it is eventually used are two entirely different things… AntiFa has become a symbol of violent vigilante action in this country.  I am sure that many of their ideals are admirable and I probably share many of them- but using violence to suppress or attack those you disagree with is simply wrong.

        4. Mike Hart

          And given the logistics involved I see no harm in several such protective devices being available county-wide near where they might be needed.  An active shooter situation would warrant its rapid deployment and much time might be wasted transporting it from where it is kept.  And in answer to the previous comment about how much is enough (helicopters and tanks were mentioned half in jest I hope) I would suspect that law-enforcement has a specific wish list that they feel is needed to keep their officers safe in performing their duties- whatever that list is I would support.

        5. Mike Hart

          Thanks David- yeah, I didn’t realize just how big this terrorist organization has become so quickly.  The article you shared really sums it up, the “alt right” people troll the internet and say mean things while AntiFa people go into the street and beat up people they disagree with and destroy property.  The MRAP is an example of the tools law enforcement may need to deal with this organization if it continues to spread.  I personally hope it just sits in the police lot and collects dust.

        6. Matt Williams

          Mike Hart said . . . “And given the logistics involved I see no harm in several such protective devices being available county-wide near where they might be needed”

          Mike, as a corporate CEO you are responsible for deciding how to deply capital and operational resources.  I wonder if you would deploy your corporation’s limited resources to a use that has a frequency history consistent with the MRAP deployment history in Yolo County.  With that said, here is a question for you.

          In the 5 years between 2010 and 2014, how many deployments of the combined Davis/West Sacramento SWAT Team MRAP were there?

        7. Colin Walsh

          I was just going to write essentially what Matt already did. There really is a cost benefit question here. you suggest that having more MRAPs mean their deployment will be spread across the county and improve response times. Currently there is one in Woodland with the Woodland Police, and one in West Sac with the West Sac Police. Were will the Sheriff’s MRAP be stationed if not at the Sheriff’s office in Woodland that it would make a meaningful improvement to response times?

        8. Matt Williams

          Mike, I second Colin’s points and would add one additional very practical one as well.  Your suggestion that the vehicle be located in a dispersed location only provides improved response times if the personnel with the specialized training needed to drive the vehicle are physically close to the vehicle at the time the call for its deployment comes in.

          If you locate the second Woodland/Yolo County SWAT Team MRAP in Winters, and the incident is in Dunnigan, if the trained SWAT Team personnel are all located in (or close to) Woodland they would have to schlep from Woodland to Winters (once all the members of the SWAT Team are assembled), enter the parked MRAP, start it up, and then head off to the incident in Dunnigan.  Compare that to a centralized location of the MRAP, close to both the personnel trained to drive it and the rest of the SWAT Team members, who arrive together, climb aboard the MRAP, and head off to the incident in Dunnigan.

          Back in early October 2014, I interviewed Chief Landy Black who told me that the joint Davis/West Sac SWAT Team has a documented history of how they use the MRAP they have had since the early 1990’s. Chief Black shared with me that the Peacekeeper MRAP (which was replaced by the current MRAP in 2014 under the West Sacramento participation in the LESO program) was deployed by the joint Davis/West Sac SWAT Team 43 times over the prior 5 years (the most recent being to Royal Oak Manufactured Home Community). 75% of those 43 were to West Sacramento and 25% to Davis. None of the 43 involved an active shooter.  That rather low number of deployments would appear to be well covered by one MRAP.  Two is at best overkill.  I suspect, but do not know, that the deployment of the joint Woodland/Yolo County’s armored vehicle has been even less frequent than 43 times in 5 years.


    1. David Greenwald

      I fail to see what an MRAP is going to do against AntiFa and more importantly, it seems like you are opening a lot of doors for a very small level of threat.  And why can’t the Sheriff’s office simply use Woodland’s or West Sacramento’s?

      1. David Greenwald

        On a side note, can you imagine how much you would escalate things if you rolled out an MRAP during a protest.  Talk about self-defeating.  Come on Mike, you’re smarter than this.

        1. Mike Hart

          Today?  You are entirely correct David.  But when you see a mob with clubs, hoods and masks who feel that they are “right” and free to take the law into their own hands… I worry about tomorrow.  Right now they are a self-righteous bunch of thugs- check back in a couple years.  What do you do when a mob feels that the government isn’t theirs?  When they feel that they have the right to do whatever they feel appropriate to make things the way they feel is correct?  I feel the same way about them as I would about seeing a new chapter of the KKK or Nazis  setting up an office in Davis.  Public discourse should be done in the open, with no masks and certainly no weapons.

          On a side-note, I certainly agree that having the MRAP appear at an otherwise peaceful protest would be nuts.

        2. Keith O

          I agree with Mike Hart.  There are times when an MRAP would be appropriate,  a peaceful protest is not one of them.  But with the terms “resistance” and the heightening  rhetoric and hate coming from the left I fear that protests are going to take an ugly turn.

        3. Alan Miller

          I fear that protests are going to take an ugly turn.

          Going to?  Berkeley and Sacramento failed to crack down on the masked.  I am full-on freedom of speech.  That means you stand up coward-less in full identity, without violence, and are prepared to take the consequences.

          Being masked is cowardice and outside free speech.  Anyone masked at a protest with even a hint of violence should face zero tolerance arrest, lest these protests escalate in violence by being tolerated.

  4. Tia Will

    This conversation has veered in the direction of whom do we fear more, some violent but small group ( terrorists) of what ever political persuasion, or the government ?  Until recently my feeling would have been that I did not particularly fear either. But with the previous POTUS willingness to use information gathering technologies and the current POTUS disrespect for the separation of powers and judicial system as it applies to him, I am now more concerned about the establishment of a police state and/or dictatorship than I am about a random terrorist attack from any particular group whether Islamist, white supremacist …..

    What reassures me is that I feel that in California whether under Republican or Democratic leadership, and particularly here in Davis the tendency has been towards acceptance and peaceful resolution of our differences. It is my sincere hope that this will continue.

    1. Keith O

       some violent but small group ( terrorists) of what ever political persuasion, or the government ?

      Maybe it’s just me but I’ll take my chances with our government.

  5. David Greenwald

    I think people are misusing the term fake news.  “Fake News” is the publication of hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news with the deliberate intent to mislead. Many fake news websites originate from Russia, Macedonia, and Romania.  Let’s stop this nonsense.

      1. Don Shor

        Fake stories made up on very little substance or facts and unnamed sources.

        Fake news is not unsourced news. Fake news is not news with “very little substance.” Fake news is false news stories that are wholly made up and disseminated with specific intent to mislead. It is clear that the president and those around him would like to convert the term to refer to any news article they find unflattering or any analysis with which they disagree, and many conservatives — including you — have taken to using the term that way. But that isn’t what fake news means. If you keep using the term that way, you will render it meaningless.

        1. Keith O

          Fake news is false news stories that are wholly made up and disseminated with specific intent to mislead. 

          Exactly my point and we’re seeing much of that now from mainstream sources with the intent of discrediting Trump.

  6. Alan Miller

    The appropriateness of “militarization” of police vehicles aside, there are already Yolo County MRAPs, which can be deployed to Davis.

    I state this to point out the interesting human-nature trait of  “if it’s there, we’ll tolerate it — it may even be safe; if it’s on the way, we won’t and it will make things dangerous”.

    While part of this is that it’s more difficult to get rid of something than stop it in the first place, it’s also that people, by nature, become complacent once something is already in place.  As another example, this happens with oil trains once they start rolling through a community daily.

    Were people truly strident about the demilitarization of Yolo County, the demand for the removal of Woodland and West Sacramento’s MRAPs would be constant and deafening.  All philosophical (not economic) reasons to oppose the new MRAP apply to the current MRAPs.  The MRAPs already can show up at nonviolent protests in Davis.  So, what is the strength of our convictions?

    1. Howard P

      Actually, if we wanted to fully de-militarize the police, we should remove all weapons; guns, tasers, tear gas, bullet-resistant vests, helmets, etc. from our police department… that’s a choice we could make.  Pretty much all those things originated from military developments (not so sure about tasers)…

      1. David Greenwald

        Militarization of police doesn’t refer to those things.  It refers to the use of military equipment and tactics by law enforcement officers. This includes the use of armored personnel carriers, assault rifles, submachine guns, flashbang grenades,grenade launchers,sniper rifles, and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. It is furthermore associated with intelligence agency-style information gathering aimed at the public and political activists,and a more aggressive style of law enforcement.

    2. Tia Will


      So, what is the strength of our convictions?”

      The answer to that question is as variable as the people who have any convictions about this at all. I would have a preference for no MRAPs at all. If the need for an armored type vehicle is great enough, we should be willing to pay for the most appropriate piece of equipment that is actually demonstrated to be necessary and best for the job, not just accepting something suboptimal for our purposes ( according to now Chief Pytel, not me) because it can be obtained for less.



      1. Cherie Goodenough

        Alan – I agree with Tia.  I do not support any MRAPs for our civilian police force.  This one we can stop, and we’ll work on the rest, along with ensuring the police have suitable alternatives for the civilian uses they claim they have, later.

  7. Tia Will

    Anyone masked at a protest with even a hint of violence should face zero tolerance arrest, lest these protests escalate in violence by being tolerated.”

    Unless of course you happen to be a Muslim woman who customarily wears a full hijab excluding only the eyes…in which case you should not be subjected to men or women, police or not, deciding what they should wear.


  8. Tia Will


    “even a hint of violence”

    And what if the only “hint of violence” is generated by the police ( as in the pepper spray incident), still be the same?

  9. John Hobbs

    Trump has declared war on American values. In a war there are two sides. If you are not on mine, you are the enemy. Trump would use bullets and tanks against American citizens without a second thought. He already has a substantial portion of the intelligence community refusing to communicate with him, because they know he is a traitor and opportunist. High ranking military officers have also indicated that they will not obey any illegal orders from the edit president. The resistance is only just beginning and will not stop until Trump and his edit are brought to justice.

    [moderator] Tone it down, please.

  10. Rob Gonzales

    If per chance, some school children or your family has to be rescued in an active shooter situation, I hope this type of vehicle is quickly available. I wish the same for those who don’t want it available.

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