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Davis Police Accepting MRAP Raises Concerns About Department Militarization

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Nick Janes Nick Janes
Nick Janes joined KOVR/KMAX in December 2008 as a reporter. Nick...
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DAVIS (CBS13) — A massive, armored military vehicle typically used in war is now in the hands of the Davis Police Department.

It’s part of a trend across the country, where local departments are getting heavy-duty military vehicles and weapons from the Pentagon, raising concerns about the militarization of police.

The newest Davis Police crime-fighting tool is a mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle. The MRAP was developed by the military for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After Pentagon budget cuts, the vehicle has been making its way to local law enforcement.

What would Davis Police need with a vehicle like that?

“The vehicle will be used specifically by our SWAT team,” said Lt Thomas Waltz.

The vehicle is enormous, featuring armored plates rated for handgun and rifle fire that run all the way down the side.

The department says it won’t be patrolling the streets on a regular basis.

“God forbid we have to use it, but we work in an industry where we prepare for the worst,” Waltz said.

Police received the $700,000, bulletproof vehicle from a military surplus property program for free.

Davis Mayor Dan Wolk isn’t sold.

“I just don’t see how that tank belongs in the City of Davis,” he said.

“For one thing it’s not a tank,” Waltz said. “And when you need this type of equipment you have to have it.”

The military has essentially handed down equipment to law enforcement for years. That’s how the Sacramento Police Department received its two helicopters, and Vallejo Police received their own military vehicle—complete with bulletproof tires.

Clashes between heavily-armored police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, have put the program under increased scrutiny.

“This vehicle literally is militarizing our police force, it is a military-surplus vehicle,” Wolk said.

Waltz says he under it’s less about the equipment and more about how it is used.

“It will only be used for emergency response,” Waltz said.

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