Three weeks from the date of the next hearing at the Yolo County Board of Supervisors on the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle), Sheriff Ed Prieto suddenly reversed himself in a statement released to the media on Monday.
The statement reads: “After extensive research and analysis, dialogue with the community and taking into consideration multiple individual’s expressed concerns, Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto decided against accepting the free surplus MRAP vehicle offered by the FBI. The intent of accepting the surplus equipment was to provide protection to the community and law enforcement officers in high risk emergency operations such as active shooters, bomb threats, hostage rescues and other high risk situations. Community members voiced concerns that the vehicle would be used during protests. Prieto was adamant that this vehicle would not have been deployed during protests.
“To purchase a similar vehicle would cost the tax payers well over $200,000 for the initial purchase. Having this vehicle in the Sheriff’s fleet would have reduced response times to incidents in the unincorporated areas of Yolo County and when requested to assist the cities. Now, the Sheriff’s Office will continue to rely on Woodland and West Sacramento Police Departments MRAP vehicles in times of need, which will undoubtedly increase response times.
“The Sheriff recognizes that a vital component to the relations between the community and our officers is trust. The concerns of many community members, which were demonstrated at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting in February, were heard, measured, understood and carefully evaluated. While Sheriff Prieto empathizes and agrees with some of these concerns expressed, ultimately, taking into careful consideration the backdrop of the current national political climate and the fear of police militarization, the Sheriff believes community confidence and trust are more important than the acquisition of an MRAP vehicle. The Sheriff and his department remain committed to community policing, building trust and transparency and to that end, will continue to make decisions based upon what will best serve the community of Yolo County.”
At the hearing in February, the board was deadlocked on their decision. The public that attended was unanimous in its opposition.
The Board of Supervisors was more evenly split. Don Saylor put forward a motion to deny the sheriff’s request for the MRAP. It would be seconded by Matt Rexroad, but that is where it got interesting. Oscar Villegas voted straight up against the motion, while Jim Provenza and Duane Chamberlain were not ready to make a decision.
There was a second motion to bring it back on April 25 – that passed 3-2 with Don Saylor and Matt Rexroad dissenting.
The sheriff said that, while people are focused on this being a military vehicle, the vehicle they are obtaining “is much smaller than the one Woodland has, and West Sacramento,” he said. “I don’t think the size of the vehicle matters so much as how it is going to be used. I think my reputation speaks loudly in support of civil rights.”
He said he would absolutely not use the vehicle to oppose protests. “Nowhere on the list is anything indicating that we’re going to use it for crowd control or opposition to any marches,” he said.
“This is not a political issue,” he said, stating that he believes people have the right to protest and that he has been supportive of some of the movements against the new administration. “We are doing this strictly for community safety. That’s the number one stress for us.”
The Vanguard will have additional information and commentary in the morning.
—David M Greenwald reporting