Return to Sender: Davis City Council Gives Police 60 Days to Dispose of Military Armored Vehicle

The Davis Police Department has 60 days to get rid of a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP) that it recently received from the federal government.

Amidst mounting concerns over the increasing “militarization” of local police forces, the Davis City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday, asking staff to devise a plan for the vehicle’s disposal. The vote was 4-1 with Council Member Brett Lee dissenting on the grounds that more information is needed.

Davis Police recently acquired the $689,000 vehicle free of charge through the federal government’s controversial 1033 Program. The program, which was first developed in the early 1990s, allows for the transfer of surplus military equipment to local police forces around the country.

Though local authorities say the vehicle is intended for defensive use, its acquisition sparked outraged among residents who fear it could eventually be used to quash peaceful protests. Many of them showed up at the meeting Tuesday, donning shirts that read “tank the tank.” An online petition opposing the vehicle has already garnered at least 250 signatures.

Davis Police Chief Landry Black defended the acquisition Tuesday, displaying a number of high-power weapons confiscated by the department last year.

“These vehicles are not intended for offensive use, like armored artillery or a tank is; they are intended to protect occupants from gunfire or hazards – they are for rescues and occupant protection,” Black said in a staff report.

Black noted that the department’s SWAT team has long employed armored vehicles to protect against gunfire. In fact, the city council authorized such acquisitions back in 2009, and the request for the MRAP was submitted just over two years ago.

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, however, have sparked a national debate over the appropriateness of such transfers. Federal lawmakers in both parties have called for the curtailment of the 1033 program in recent weeks.

Local police forces in California, meanwhile, have benefited greatly under the program. A recent database of military supply transfers shows that 56 out of 58 California counties received military equipment under the plan between 2006 and 2014. In addition to armored vehicles, local police forces received everything from boots and blankets to firearms, gas launchers, and helicopters.

Read more about Tuesday’s vote by the Davis City Council here.