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City of Davis, CA : Get rid of the police department's armored vehicle

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The City of Davis Police Department has recently acquired a International MaxxPro MRAP vehicle through the 1033 Program of the Defense Logistics Agency, Law Enforcement Support Office (see David Greenwald's article for more information). The MRAP, or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, is a weapon system designed to protect ground forces from tactics used in guerrilla warfare. 

Davis Police Chief Landy Black envisions this weapon system as a means for, in his words, "handling" a mass shooting incident. However, across the country, the use of these and other military weapon systems has done little to help, and much to harm, the relationship of trust between communities and their police. Most recently, the use of military weapons Ferguson, MO has breached public trust in local law enforcement. Whatever tactical advantage these weapon systems might have yielded has been obliterated by the strategic blunder they represent.

Furthermore, the manner in which police have deployed these weapons has demonstrated that they lack the training, discipline and supervision required for their use. In Ferguson, police are routinely training automatic weapons on unarmed, nonthreatening citizens. As Josh Weinberg, an Army veteran and security analyst for the Truman Project noted, this is exactly what the Army trains soldiers not to do. "To call this militarization doesn't characterize the military very well," says Weinberg.

This is not surprising. Police training does not make competent, effective soldiers, nor does military training make competent, effective police. Police work and the military demand vast reserves of personal integrity, but as far as training, doctrine and purpose, the jobs could hardly be more different. There are superficial similarities; soldiers and police usually need weapons to do their jobs, and there is a uniform to wear and a code of ethics attached to that uniform. Beyond that, little else overlaps. Even the criteria for doing a good job are fundamentally different. Mixing up these two roles has led many comunities to sorrow.

There is also a practical matter to consider. The "active shooter" scenario envisioned by Chief Landy Black is not a military situation, and military training and equipment are not likely to be appropriate. For example, mass shootings typically occur inside buildings. Using an armored vehicle to respond to such an event simply means that police will get there more slowly, and that they will be more likely to run over innocent people on the way. Once on the scene, the vehicle would be of little use, as it must remain outside.

The Davis Police Department is a good police department. It employs competent, polite and professional officers who do their jobs well. They have a reputation for a calm, safety-focused approach to their work, and have played an important part in making Davis a safe place to live, work, study and play. The acquisition of military weapon systems is detrimental to the good work they do.

We, the undersigned, petition the Davis City Council and the City of Davis Police Department to :

[1] Destroy the armored vehicle. If it is not legal to destroy it, the vehicle must be disposed of in a manner that is most likely to keep it from being deployed against civilians.

[2] End participation in the unethical 1033 Program by revoking the language in Davis City Council Resolution 09-033 that authorized these acquisitions.

[3] Conduct a public review all Police Department hardware, and dispose of systems incompatible with the role of our small-town police department.

[4] Allocate more resources, and seek additional resources, for community policing activities. This includes more foot patrols, bicycle patrols, school programs, workshops and programs to support officers who wish to live in the community they police. 

Thanks but no tanks, Chief Black.

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