Davis, CA junks its "Tank" (MRAP)
Davis, California Tells Its Police Chief To Get Rid Of His Tank
ARTICLE SOURCE: DAILY KOS
Sep. 13, 2014
Painted in brown camouflage, it has a revolving turret, the kind of vehicle you'd expect to see patrolling the streets of Mosul. But it's far, far from Mosul. Instead, the $700,000.00 armored combat vehicle sits menacingly in a parking lot in the college town of Davis California, ready to be called into service on a moment's notice should any terrorists appear, should any heavily armed criminals arrive, or should students of UC Davis decide to exercise, for example, their "right of assembly" in this quiet town's streets.
The MRAP was provided to the town's police department by the Department of Defense. The police chief says it's the "perfect vehicle to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during active shooter incidents.”
The town's citizens think otherwise:
But the City Council directed Chief Landy last month to get rid of it in the face of an uproar that had swept through this community, with many invoking the use of similar equipment by the police against protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
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At the City Council meeting in Davis where the vote took place, nearly 40 people spoke, and almost everyone urged the Council to return the MRAP. Council members were also deluged with emails.
California has been one of the largest beneficiaries of such surplus equipment provided to local police departments by the US military.
Since 2006, police agencies in California have received 8,533 surplus assault weapons, shotguns and pistols, as well as 7,094 pieces of night-vision equipment, the highest allocation of any state in those categories, according to the Defense Department. Over that period, it also received 49 armored vehicles, with only Texas and Florida obtaining more; 59 helicopters and airplanes, second to Florida; 2,370 knives and bayonets, second to Texas; and 18 grenade launchers for tear gas and smoke grenades, trailing Florida and North Carolina.
The economic downturn of the last few years provided law enforcement agencies all across the country with a dilemma--with so many with new toys displayed every night on our TV screens how could a police department faced with drastic state budget cuts possibly maintain its state-of-the art readiness? The answer was the DOD's surplus program and a whole host of grants by the Department of Homeland Security.
The trend in California stems from a series of events in Southern California involving incidents of police facing criminals with high tech weaponry (Think "Heat"), and one particular episode in North Hollywood involving a bank robbery by heavily armed individuals. But California had already been militarizing its police in response to well-equipped drug gangs since the 1990's. The advent of Bush's misadventure in Iraq brought the use of such equipment as MRAP's into a high public spotlight, one that proved irresistible to the police.
Davis California, like most places in this country, is not a high-crime area and there is no cause or warrant for such a vehicle in its police department arsenal. The frightening militarization of local police departments is finally getting the attention it deserves in places like Davis, whose residents, through their City Council, have unreservedly told their police chief he has 60 days to get rid of the MRAP. Predictably, this has prompted consternation among police agencies across the nation as they fear a backlash is beginning to develop towards high-tech weaponization of local police:
“It’s time to recalibrate what the police are doing, what they have allowed to take over policing,” said Joseph D. McNamara, a former police chief in San Jose, Calif., and Kansas City, Mo., who is now a fellow at the Hoover Institution. “The facts are so overwhelming on the side of getting police back to the side that they are public servants and that you accept the risk. No one drafted you into police work.”
The presence of military vehicles, dress and weaponry in our towns is alarming, unnecessary and in direct contradiction of the values our country is supposed to represent. We are not a military dictatorship. The core philosophy that underlies our civic institutions assumes that the public interest should not be subject to threats of intimidation or force, and the weaponization of our police departments creates an atmosphere of intimidation and coercion, whether it is actually exercised or not. Our local, taxpayer-funded police departments are not an army called upon to maintain civil order. They are an institution designed to serve the public in such a way that does not in practice stifle or otherwise threaten our essential democratic values. The events of Ferguson clearly demonstrate that such power and weaponry will be misused when placed into the wrong hands, just as they continue to be misused in the intimidation of peaceful protesters everywhere from Tehran to Zucotti Park.