The Davis City Council voted 3-1-1 Tuesday night to essentially find a way to get rid of a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle donated to the Police Department by the military.
Councilman Brett Lee voted against the idea and Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson abstained.
Pictures of the heavily armored vehicle incensed a large part of the community, and drew calls that it was a “tank.” Swanson said she got messages from people who were concerned that the tank treads would ruin local roads, but in reality the vehicle is borne on bullet-resistant tires instead.
Indeed, the public comment period drew a long line, with more than 20 speakers opposed to the MRAP, the acronym for the vehicle, and only two people in support.
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis laid out the successful three-part motion to have staff come back within 60 days to provide options for the council get rid of the vehicle, establish city manager and City Council oversight of major military surplus acquisitions and look at alternatives to using armored vehicles in situations where officers and civilians come under fire.
Lee added a friendly amendment to have the council meet with police leaders during the next 60 days to determine the need for an armored vehicle of some sort.
While Lee voted Tuesday against rejecting the MRAP, he did not explicitly say he supported it. Instead, he wanted the council to step back and study the issue in more detail, or at least have city leaders see the vehicle in action.
While he agreed with members of the public who said at the very least the City Council should have been consulted about the Police Department’s May 2012 request for the vehicle, Lee said sending the vehicle back without further study of the need for it would be a mistake.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said.
But Lee failed to convince a majority of the council.
City Councilman Lucas Frerichs reprimanded Police Chief Landy Black, saying his process in obtaining the vehicle — requesting it six months after a group of students were pepper-sprayed at UC Davis — exemplified a lack of communication between police and city leaders.
“The fact that you unilaterally decided to acquire this armored vehicle without informing city leaders, including the City Council and city manager, is unacceptable, and that is the fundamental issue for me,” Frerichs said. “And this armored vehicle has no place here in Davis.”
Agreeing with Frerichs, Davis said the MRAP is not only overkill for the Police Department’s needs, he said it symbolized a militarization of the police force that offended the community.
“This symbolizes the most destructive force in the world, the U.S. military,” Davis said, adding that it would create a brittle mistrust between the public and the police. “… We’re war-weary.”
With Wolk already quoted as saying publicly that he opposed the MRAP, the fate of the vehicle was sealed when the motion came to a vote.
This largely satisfied a Community Chambers packed with people vehemently opposed to the MRAP. One of those was Davis resident Alan Miller, who wore a shirt that read “tank the tank.”
With TV news cameras filming, Miller said even though he trusted the current city and police leadership to use the MRAP responsibly, there is no guarantee that future leaders will do so.
“What if (UC Davis Chancellor) Linda Katehi was mayor instead of Dan Wolk?” he asked, his voice rising. “… I do not suggest that you take this vehicle out of Davis, I demand it. I demand it!”
There was loud applause from the audience.
— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews