Two California Cities to Return Armored Vehicle to US Military

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( — August 30, 2014)  — The Davis Police Department recently acquired a $689,000 Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle at no cost from the military, part of a years-old federal program that lets the Defense Department dole out excess military equipment to law enforcement agencies.

Concerns over police militarization were heightened after law enforcement used heavily armored vehicles and other military gear to confront protesters in Ferguson. Now, the Davis Police Department was given 60 days to get rid of it.

Much of the controversy over the use of military equipment centers on the Pentagon’s excess property program, which gives unused equipment to police forces across the country. The program has come under scrutiny after protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, where rifle-toting police in armored vehicles faced off against demonstrators in a response critics say helped fuel outrage.

Political satirist John Oliver devoted the second half of his HBO program to the issue by diving deep into the complicated explanation of a story that, on the surface, appears bereft of any obvious comedic value.

Smartly, Oliver used Ferguson as a gateway into a whole different topic: the use of military-grade equipment by local police forces around the country.

“I know the police love their ridiculous, unnecessary military equipment, so here’s another patronizing test,” Oliver said. “Let’s take it all away from them, and if they can make it through a whole month without killing an unarmed black man, then and only then can they get their toys back.”

A few residents supported acquiring the rescue vehicle. Michelle Millet, a former emergency medical technician, said she was taught not to go to a scene unless it was safe, even if someone dies. She said she doesn’t see this vehicle as a weapon, but rather as a way to move officers.

James Hechtl also said he supported having the vehicle. “I would rather have something and not need it, than need it and not have it,” he said.

In a staff report, Davis Police Chief Landy Black said the City Council in 2009 authorized the Police Department to acquire federal and military equipment suitable for use in conventional law enforcement activities through a program of the Defense Logistics Agency, Law Enforcement Support Office.

The program was established to convert and repurpose surplus federal and military equipment to local law enforcement use.

However, in recent days, a sheriff in New Jersey said he would stop the acquisition of a similar vehicle, and two police departments in North Carolina announced plans to hold forums to hear concerns about law enforcement’s militarization. The police force in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has also moved to give up a mine-resistant vehicle.