The movement to demilitarize America’s police forces may have just begun in Davis, California.
The college town’s police force has 60 days to get rid of a military surplus armored vehicle, on orders of the city council.
“I do not suggest that you take this vehicle and send it out of Davis. I demand it, I demand it!” an unidentified resident said at an August 26 city council meeting.
In the end, the city council voted 4-1 to order the city’s police to get rid of an army surplus mine-resistant armor protected vehicle (MRAP).
The council was apparently responding to large numbers of voters who turned out to voice their displeasure with the presence of the MRAP on their streets. Only three people at the meeting spoke in favor of the vehicle. The Davis Vanguard reported that the meeting was packed.
Mayor Pro Term Robb Davis put forward an anti-MRAP resolution that the city council ultimately adopted.
“We instruct staff to return with options for disposing with the MRAP in the most expeditious and low cost manner within sixty days,” the resolution told Police Chief Landry Black.
Police Try To Justify Armored Vehicle
Black and his assistant, Darren Pytel, failed in an effort to justify their MRAP acquisition. They showed the audience pictures of semiautomatic rifles and other weapons they said were seized from criminals in Davis.
“The purpose for this armored vehicle is primarily designed to be a way to make citizens and police officers safe,” Black said, claiming that the MRAP was needed to carry out high-risk search warrants.
Davis, though, said that “symbol matters,” and that the MRAP “symbolizes the most destructive force on the planet, which is the US military.”
“I appreciate the trust that you’ve built in this community … this will hurt it,” Davis said, according to the Vanguard.
It is not clear what will happen to the vehicle, which was acquired through the Pentagon’s 1033 program. The Pentagon has donated 601 MRAPs to US police forces, and the Department of Homeland Security provides grants that help law enforcement agencies buy a similar vehicle called a Bear Cat, Yahoo reported.
Designed For Guerrilla Warfare
The MRAP is a 14 to 18 ton wheeled armored personal carrier designed to protect troops from landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), light artillery and gunfire. The US Army and Marines began adopting the vehicles in 2007 when the old military transport, the Humvee, proved extremely vulnerable to guerrilla attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The MRAP is based on the Casspir, a huge armored vehicle that has been deployed by the South African military since the 1980s. Before the collapse of the racist Apartheid regime, the South African military deployed MRAPs against black South Africans.
Davis is one of the few American communities that has turned down a free MRAP. In Washington, Iowa, only one member of the city council voted against acquiring an MRAP.
“Goodness, this is overkill,” said Robert Shellmyer, the only Washington city council member who voted against the MRAP. “Washington, Iowa, has 8,000 people. We have an MRAP now. We have a SWAT team. We have [police] dogs, and we have a SWAT team transportation vehicle that’s not armored.”
Pete Kraska, an Eastern Kentucky University criminology professor and expert on SWAT teams, said that “now that the Iraq and Afghanistan war has wound down, the military has a tremendous amount of surplus.”
Many more communities could soon have debates like the one in Davis. Yahoo writer Liz Goodwin reported that the government bought 27,000 of them in 2007. If you’re wondering if there’s one in your area, click here. The only states that are currently MRAP-free are Delaware, Vermont, Rhode Island and Alaska.
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