Monday Morning Thoughts: DPD Tries Again on Armored Rescue Vehicle

It has been five years since the last time the Davis Police Department attempted to acquire an armored rescue vehicle (ARV).  However, in the aftermath of Ferguson and concerns about the militarization of police, large segments of the community were outraged by the acquisition and the council returned it.

There are differences between then and now.  Current ordinances require the police to come to the city before the acquisition.  Moreover, unlike the 2015 MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle) – that the council returned twice – the current proposed vehicle is not free.

The one-time cost for the vehicle is $130,000 plus tax.  If purchased, “staff is recommending utilization of public safety impact fees for the acquisition of the vehicle. Ongoing maintenance and replacement costs will be incorporated into the annual department operating budget.”

When the council returned the MRAP, they asked staff  to return with more information about cost and need.

Writes staff, “Although the need for an ARV has not waned, staff hasn’t returned until now because there have been other budgetary priorities. Since that time, the cost of the vehicle has decreased and there has been a change in vehicle design that adds further utility.”

In addition now to a much lower cost, the proposed ARV looks “entirely different” from the previously acquired MRAP.

Writes Chief Pytel in the staff report: “In fact, the average person looking at the van would not know of the armor capabilities. Because it is a Ford Transit Van, it looks like many vehicles commonly used by parcel delivery companies. The same style van, lacking armor, is seen all around Davis on a daily basis.”

Chief Pytel back in 2014 acknowledged that he did not think the community would be accepting of the MRAP, but argued at the council meeting and several community meetings for its need.

Back in 2014, Chief Pytel (who was assistant chief at the time) argued that the need was “defensive.”  He said, “It has armor protection so you can move officers into an environment where firearms are present, and you don’t have to worry about getting hit. The MRAP will actually take care of all the rifles we encounter.

“Right after we got it, Ferguson happened,” he said.

In the staff report, he argues: “ARV use by police departments is not new, but they have been controversial due to concerns about the intended use of these vehicles. Unfortunately, some law enforcement agencies have used the vehicles in situations that even other police professionals, including here, have questioned.”

The concerns about “militarization of the police” during Ferguson and other events “has contributed to the fear and concerns expressed by some in those communities and here in Davis as well.”

Chief Pytel continues to defend the need for a properly used ARV: “The Davis Police Department is not, and should never be seen as ‘an occupying force’ to any portion of the community that we serve. The Police Department is, however, charged with the responsibility to have the capabilities to safely and effectively deal with situations that could be reasonably foreseen that threaten both life and property. This includes having and using armor and ballistic protection when necessary.”

He adds: “It is unfortunate that some of the equipment necessary to meet that obligation carries labels that sound like military equipment, such as an ‘armored vehicle.’ With that being said, having the equipment does not mean that the Davis Police Department is going to take any posture differently than we have before.”

The chief continues to argue that the ARV is “not a tank” and notes, “The ballistic protection offered by an ARV makes it the perfect platform to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during active-shooter incidents, and to more safely deliver officers into an active-shooter incidents, barricaded hostage crises, and/or other environments involving armed offenders.”

In October 2014, the council voted 3-2 to return the MRAP, but two of the most outspoken critics of the vehicle – Dan Wolk and Robb Davis – are no longer on the council.

For Brett Lee, then a councilmember and now the mayor, he argued, “I’m not in favor of the militarization of the police,” he said.

“Then there’s the question of, do the police have a legitimate need for a protective vehicle?” He would answer that question: “Based on my due diligence over the past few weeks, I personally believe that they do need a protective vehicle.”

He stated that, given the reality that he is not in favor of the militarization of the police but believes we need a protective vehicle, “We are confronted by budget realities.” All things being equal, he said, “I would choose the civilian version because it’s clearly more appropriate.”

His argument did not win that day, however.

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.

“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.

“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.”

The question for the council is whether this equipment, which looks nothing like anything military, will be sufficient for the council and community.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Alan Miller

    Since that time, the cost of the vehicle has decreased and there has been a change in vehicle design that adds further utility.

    In other words, it doesn’t look like a tank, so no one will protest it.  If we dressed up AR-47’s as puppies, the people of Davis would probably allow YONET to be armed with sub-machine.

  2. Alan Miller

    I still have my “Scrap the MRAP” / “Tank the Tank” — t-shirt that I wore to the City Council meeting five years ago.  Maybe it’s time to bust it out.

  3. Tia Will

    Just as at the time the MRAP was proposed, what I want to see first and foremost is not just an assertion, but data demonstrating the need for such a vehicle. I know Chief Pytel believes we need one. I would like to see a breakdown of the times in the past 5 years in Davis in which an armored vehicle, regardless of its outside appearance would have made the difference of life and death for a police officer.

      1. Eric Gelber

        Not saying DPD shouldn’t be required to establish need; but need can be demonstrated by looking at data and experiences of other communities around the country, not just locally.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Eric… I’d say “… establish reasonability…” but both ‘reasonability’, and ‘need’ are in the eyes of the beholder… not resolvable, rationally, factually… it will be ‘political’… with much rhetoric.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Something about closing the barn door after the horses have fled?

      Yeah, Sandy Hook is a lot more vigilant since that day in December… but a lot of teachers/students died… good strategy… wait until something bad happens to act…  there was no

      data demonstrating the need for 

      Also worked well in Dec 1941… the Japanese Empire was no real threat to Americans… there was no

      data demonstrating the need for 

      Where is the data demonstrating “no need for”?

      How many people must die, locally, with full documentation before we prepare? 1? 10? 100? But we need documentation…

      Davis?  Yeah, we’ve had active shooters… rarely, but going back 40 years, had at least three… de minimus for those who were at risk, etc., right?

      Doctors recommend flu shots and other vaccinations… where is the data that any individual is at risk if the herd isn’t vaccinated… locally?

      1. Craig Ross

        “Where is the data demonstrating “no need for”?”

        Aren’t you reversing the burden here – doesn’t the data need to support the change, not oppose it?

        1. Bill Marshall

          This is not a legal matter… it is a logical/political matter.  No “burden”, except as political folk want to frame it.

          If a department wants to acquire a paving machine to fix potholes, do they need to ‘prove it’ beyond reasonable doubt?

          Think, before you react.

          As for me, I doubt that such a vehicle will save my life… but, it might… and for the price, and considering all the other folk in town, seems like cheap ‘insurance’… how many folk not saved, will it take before you support some limited insurance?

          Don’t need an answer… I hope you want to think


        2. Craig Ross

          The point is that the reason people care about a police vehicle and not a cement mixer, is that cops don’t jump out of the cement mixer (usually) and shoot people.

        3. Bill Marshall

          Craig… your lack of knowledge of paving operations, and your paranoia, prejudices/biases are evident.

          Keep “owning” them… it’s your right.

          Have a great evening and week…

        4. Alan Miller

          is that cops don’t jump out of the cement mixer (usually) and shoot people.

          I believe the vehicle is meant to protect the cops.  I don’t see the difference if they jump out of a standard cop car and shoot people or if they jump out of an ARV and shoot people.  The only difference here is that the police are protected going into a dangerous situation.

          And speaking of having to ‘prove a need’, where is your evidence that police jump out of vehicles in Davis and shoot people?  Police firing weapons in Davis is a very uncommon event, and every situation I can think of over the last 40 years, they were well within their right to do so.  (Pepper Spray . . . not so much . . . but that was the University Police led by Chief Dumbarse Katehi, not the City Police.)

          The difference this time is it’s not military surplus, it meets a more specific need, is more maneuverable in urban applications, and it doesn’t have a gun turret on top that looks scary.

          I am definitely running for my life the next time I see a cement mixer coming.

      2. Alan Miller

        Yeah, we’ve had active shooters… rarely, but going back 40 years, had at least three…

        Not doubting, we’ve had some loonies in town, but I remember no active shooting situations per my understanding of the definition — can you name these?

        1. Bill Marshall

          Sort of… F Street, near E Eighth, late 70’s early 80’s… gunman brought down by a SWAT sniper, as I recall… clear shot to the head.  Aspen… apartment… ended up as murder-suicide (wish folk would do it in the opposite order) aa few years ago… the jerk who killed Natalie Corona, then offed himself… I may be wrong… there may have been 4-5… maybe we understand the term differently… we’ve had no Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora, Las Vegas, etc. … but I believe the ones I recall would have been called “active shooters”… pretty darn sure the Corona one was so labeled both by DPD and UCD…

          Hope that helps…

        2. Alan Miller

          I think the first one pre-dated me in Davis — or I was student and didn’t give an F — same thing.

          Second one, not so much.

          Yeah, the Corona one really was an active shooter now that you mention it — he was just such a bad shot he missed everything else he shot at — wish he’d missed with the first one, too — or shot himself in the head first, as you say.

        3. Bill Marshall

          BTW Alan,  I don’t believe that any of the past ones would have turned out differently with the vehicle proposed… but, am open to the possibility that we, or nearby entity, could have to deal with a Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, etc. situation… none of those entities imaging those tragedies occurring… not at all…

          Dice roll… you make your bets, you take your chances… old survival maxim… “prepare for the worst, expect the best”… much truth in that…

          And,if the City passes on the vehicle, fine… if they do, those adamantly opposed need to own any results that could have been mitigated by such a vehicle…

  4. Bill Marshall


    Sparked not by an armored vehicle.  Tinder was dry, and bad judgement/bad behavior by individuals and including police were the spark… bad behavior all around in the aftermath… looters seeking to get some freebies under the guise of ‘justice’… authorities going over the top, and then some… vehicles didn’t really come into play much… folks’ behavior did.

    Had there been no armored vehicles, pretty much would have been same/similar results…

    Just like “guns don’t kill people, ammo kills people”, Ferguson had very little to do with vehicles… much stupidity and jerk behavior all around… IMO

  5. Ron Oertel

    Absolutely – it’s to protect the police in dangerous situations.

    And, useful for camping trips.

    Wasn’t there some kind of comedy movie from the 1980’s involving an RV-type military vehicle, featuring some Saturday Night Live cast members?

    But seriously, people might want to remember that police don’t want to take unnecessary risks, either.  Nor do their families.

    The city already missed an opportunity for a “free” vehicle, based upon what seemed (to me) to be an overly-emotional, not-fully-analytical response. Maybe it will get to Davis in time, from its home in Woodland (as I recall). (Wondering how often it’s actually been used, there.)

    Natalie Corona comes to mind.

    1. David Greenwald

      “Absolutely – it’s to protect the police in dangerous situations.”

      That’s the police claim, but is that claim backed up by empirical data?

      “Natalie Corona comes to mind.”

      This would not have prevented the Natalie Corona situation. In fact, such a vehicle would never be deployed in her situation, it happened too fast.

      1. Ron Oertel

        That’s true, regarding Natalie Corona.

        The reason I commented is because some are asking if this makes the public safer.  Just wanted to point out that making the police safer is also a legitimate pursuit.  Perhaps ultimately making the public safer, as well.

        I don’t really have an opinion, beyond that.  But, I suspect that other communities are asking themselves the same types of questions.

        I don’t really see what difference it makes regarding “perception”, if the police go to a scene in this RV-type vehicle, vs. a regular police car.  (Other than perhaps expecting a delivery/package from Amazon.)


      2. Ron Oertel

        Truth be told, I suspect that some people just plain don’t like the idea that police have authority.  Perhaps because they feel it’s been historically “unchecked” (or inadequately checked).

      3. Ron Oertel

        Still having problems with unexpected shortening of the Vanguard’s “editing period”.

        In any case, cell phone videos have certainly helped change perceptions, in recent years.

  6. Dave Hart

    If this thing is purchased, it will require additional personnel resources to train with it on the chance it actually needs to be used.  Chief Pytel needs to let us know what the annual costs in person-years will be for making it useful in a high stress situation.  It’s a tool that requires initial and ongoing training. Purchases like this tend to have costs far beyond the sticker price though it appears be more of a standard looking vehicle.

    On the other hand, if they plan to get rid of the claws and use the money for this, I’m all ears.

  7. PhilColeman

    Going back to the more mundane but relevant, an armored vehicle of any stripe is first portrayed as a means of safe transport of police personnel to a dangerous incident. Stop and examine.

    Has there ever been a single instance in American policing where specially-equipped response teams going to an incident has been ambushed by somebody else? Data, please.

    So assume for the moment that emergency responders could take Uber to get there. Now we have the point that an armored vehicle could serve as a protective device. It could be driven to an intercept point where it shields rescuers from assault by the bad guy while rescuing fallen officers or civilians.

    That scenario is plausible, that could happen, maybe we’ve seen it in movies. But let’s look at the entire country for the past century and ask this: Has an armored vehicle ever done this in actuality? Then take that number (other than zero) and calculate the potential for such a rescue in Davis. We can be assured that a UCD Statistics expert could calculate the odds in units of scores of millions.

    What if the armored vehicle could NOT do what is supposed to do, shield a rescue of persons in peril. There’s a building, a swimming pool, a cinder-block fence that does not allow the wheeled vehicle to go where it wants to go. Seldom in an urban setting does a rescue route include a convenient pathway. Police would still feel compelled to rescue, that’s a mantra in law enforcement and the military. “Never leave your fallen on the field.” And therein lies the solution.

    Forget the armored thing with wheels. Get some ancient Roman-style shields, only a thousand times better in giving personal protection. High-grade ballistic shields are a modern marvel that nobody talks about. They cost a fraction of an armored vehicle, goes anywhere a person can walk, are easily transportable to a rescue need by most any available vehicle, and pose no storage or maintenance issues.

    Finally, and possibly most important to adoption of this alternative, not too many people will become traumatized when they see a police officer carrying a personal defense safety shield.

    1. Darell Dickey

      I find it interesting that so many have chosen to reference and even comment on Phil’s input…. but they’ve only done it in other comment sections. I thought for sure I’d see all kinds of replies to Phil here. But no. :scratches head:

      1. Matt Williams

        Darell, interesting observation.  I believe there are two reasons for the posting pattern you have illuminated.

        First, Phil’s comment came 24 hours after the publishing of the Vanguard article … long after the initial flurry of 30 comments had exhausted itself.

        Second, like the National Football League, the motto of the Vanguard is effectively “not for long” because on many subjects there is a new article each day for several days.  This armored vehicle story fits that pattern … initial story on Monday (with 39 comments), second story on Tuesday (with 7 comments), third story on Wednesday (with 13 comments), and fourth story today (with 8 comments).

        It would be ideal if the Vanguard could bring comments forward from prior articles.  That would leverage the value of insightful comments like Phil’s, but I don’t believe that is a current feature of WordPress.  So we will continue to have disjointed dialogue, that relegates insightful comments like Phil’s to “moment in time” status.


  8. John Hobbs

    “What if the armored vehicle could NOT do what is supposed to do, shield a rescue of persons in peril. … Seldom in an urban setting does a rescue route include a convenient pathway. ”

    Back in June, when officer Tara O’Sullivan was killed, the armored vehicle used to recover her body got stuck on the way out of the field of fire.

    “It was a horrific scene and under the most trying of circumstances,…”

    Nice looking van, though.


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