Coming soon, to a city near you

by Eric on August 21, 2014

The University of California, Davis, is located immediately next to – across the street from – the city of Davis, California. Davis has a population of about 66,000, about 70 percent of whom have completed at least a bachelor’s degree from university. It is a low crime area.

The Davis police force has recently acquired a Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle (MRAP) from the Defense Department under the program described here.

The acquisition “is a reflection of the reality that officers need protection as they try to subdue gunmen barricaded inside buildings and elsewhere,” police say.

{ 32 comments }

1

cs 08.21.14 at 3:56 pm

Well, it might get boring policing a low crime area, so sometimes you need new toys to play with.

2

Jesús Couto Fandiño 08.21.14 at 4:02 pm

Apart from the corruption angle… maybe they know something you dont? I mean, the politicians that approved this, they are just thinking about how much the country will resemble Irak or Afghanistan when they are done selling it to the highest bidder, and envision a not-so-distant future in which low-crime, highly educated areas will have barricades manned by people asking for a reckoning?

3

Bruce 08.21.14 at 4:06 pm

Just as long as they don’t arm it with pepper spray!

4

nvalvo 08.21.14 at 4:08 pm

You would think that in Davis of all places, considering certain recent events involving excessive police violence (even if that was the UC police), people would be reconsidering this sort of thing.

5

Lee A. Arnold 08.21.14 at 4:13 pm

Tax-cutting is leading to underfunding of the legal system, and poor people who cannot pay the court fees are ending up in prison after committing simple infractions. This is going to build frustrations.

Crime rates in Ferguson, Mo. are at around the national average, but a new study was linked to by commenter Harold, here:
http://crookedtimber.org/2014/08/20/ferguson-disorder-and-change/#comment-555354

Quoting: “Despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, a total of 2,635,400,” according to the ArchCity Defenders report. And in 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court issued 24,532 arrest warrants and 12,018 cases, “or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.”

…and today has been taken up by Alex Tabarrok, no left winger, here:
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/08/ferguson-and-the-debtors-prison.html

Read this stuff! If you don’t think it’s a big deal, consider that it is happening in more and more locations.

In the state of California, when people cannot pay court fees, their court appearances are very delayed and can be geographically distant. It is developing a two-tier system, and there will be blood.

People have to pay for government. If taxpayers do not want to bear the costs of an orderly and civil government, then instead, they will get what they really deserve.

6

Lyle 08.21.14 at 4:21 pm

I find it interesting, though not surprising, that so many non-black observers have recently made with amounts to a self-serving shift: from racial abuse at the hands of police and the rest of the criminal justice system, to heightened awareness of worry about police militarization.

Yes, militarization is a problem. But calling attention to it now, as Ferguson still burns, is an insidious bumping aside of racial issues. It’s white center-staging all over again, something that white people so often do, usually unconsciously, when racial issues are at hand. However much such white people sincerely claim that they “also” fully acknowledge and care about racial injustice, they nevertheless insist that these other issues (issues that tend to interest them more than they do the people of color initially abused) get attention, usually more attention, and often ALL of the attention. In the process, the focus on racial abuse, and the energy that gets paid to it, gradually dissipates. And white people win, again.

7

J— 08.21.14 at 4:28 pm

Similarly, the sheriff’s office in Johnson County, IA (Iowa City, University of Iowa), recently acquired one of these. 60 thousand pounds!

8

Ed 08.21.14 at 4:55 pm

Lyle, white people have a right to protect themselves against rogue police forces too.

9

Andrew F. 08.21.14 at 5:02 pm

Essentially the city acquired an armored vehicle at very low cost.

So what?

There’s a continuing stream of hype regarding acquisition by police departments of military equipment. As far as I can tell this is equipment that is almost never involved in typical excessive force cases. Instead it’s the type of equipment used in highly unusual circumstances – such as potentially violent crowds, or an active shooter.

Keep in mind that any equipment which allows officers to engage an individual while being protected from lethal force is also equipment that enables a broader range of non-lethal techniques to be used.

I had disagreed with almost everyone here regarding the federal decision on NYPD’s stop policy, but at least there the attention was focused on something meaningful. I truly don’t get the “militarization” focus. Are platoons of officers patrolling with M4s and designating kill zones? Honest question: what problem is an individual describing when she refers to the “militarization” of a police force?

If we want to talk about community oriented policing, then let’s do that. But then the equipment used by special tactical units isn’t relevant. Instead it’s more mundane issues, like how someone can file an incident report, how do police patrol, how do the police resolve problems they encounter, etc.

In some ways it’s an older, less exciting story. We could dig up some James Q. Wilson quotes. None of the slick diagrams or eye-catching photographs. But it’s nonetheless a more important story.

10

Lyle 08.21.14 at 5:03 pm

Of course they do, Ed. But you missed my point.

11

Barry 08.21.14 at 5:49 pm

Andrew F. 08.21.14 at 5:02 pm
“Essentially the city acquired an armored vehicle at very low cost.

So what?”

First, starting with the trivial, this will cost money down the road.

Then, proceeding to the more serious, police will use the tools that they are given.

12

Abbe Faria 08.21.14 at 5:56 pm

“There’s a continuing stream of hype regarding acquisition by police departments of military equipment. As far as I can tell this is equipment that is almost never involved in typical excessive force cases.”

Tanks and the like get the press because they’re such obvious overkill, but there’s massive misuse use of SWAT teams armored out with ex military equipment like assault rifles, night vision googles, grenade launchers etc.

13

Michael Cain 08.21.14 at 6:04 pm

I live in a low-crime county in Colorado which has an M113 armored personal carrier, on loan from the Army since 2005. It is painted in a gaudy black-and-white scheme reminiscent of a 1950s patrol car. Every few years they break it out to get negotiators and/or paramedics close to a barricaded-active-shooter sort of situation. Half the county is mountainous, so sometimes the only way to reach such a site is pretty rugged. Normally, the vehicle has to be trucked to someplace near the location before proceeding on its own.

I really don’t have any problem with the sheriff having it available. If they had left it painted in desert camouflage, and were serving drug warrants with it, I’d feel differently.

14

Meredith 08.21.14 at 6:50 pm

I hesitate to offer this comment, because I agree with Lyle, but:

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/11/western_massachusetts_police_c.html

Not army surplus but a vehicle paid for by Homeland Security. If you read through to the end, you discover a new wrinkle: this vehicle was built from the ground up by a local company. Economic stimulus!

15

Jerry Vinokurov 08.21.14 at 6:54 pm

Honest question: what problem is an individual describing when she refers to the “militarization” of a police force?

JUST ASKING QUESTIONS THAT ARE IN NO WAY INTENDED TO OFFER EXCUSES FOR MASSIVE ABUSES OF POLICE POWER YOU GUYS.

16

Sisyphus 08.21.14 at 7:45 pm

@13
“I really don’t have any problem with the sheriff having it available. If they had left it painted in desert camouflage, and were serving drug warrants with it, I’d feel differently.”

The problem is that while your current sheriff isn’t abusing these tools, eventually one will. Cops aren’t soldiers, and should never, ever, be in a position to be confused with them, because citizens aren’t enemy combatants. Once people blur the lines between cops and soldiers, bad things almost always happen.

17

SC 08.21.14 at 7:48 pm

Baldwin county, AL just got a new SWAT vehicle! Terrorists in lower Alabama beware!
“This is going to change the way we do things. It allows to us to operate more safely and deploy safer tactics . . . “
http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index.ssf/2014/08/no_more_talk_baldwin_county_ge.html

18

Barry 08.21.14 at 8:01 pm

19

Witt 08.21.14 at 8:40 pm

When we talk about police militarization, one thing we mean is that in St. Louis County, apparently every warrant is served by a SWAT team.

Every. Single. Warrant.

20

max 08.21.14 at 9:03 pm

The acquisition “is a reflection of the reality that officers need protection as they try to subdue gunmen barricaded inside buildings and elsewhere,” police say.

MRAPs are designed to survive IED/landmine attacks. (IEDs are essentially equivalent to land mines in terms of usage.)

Gunmen barricaded inside buildings, on the other hand, are generally inside buildings and generally not equipped with IEDs. Therefore, if you wish to use an armored vehicle to take out a building with a sniper inside, you should have an Abrams, not an MRAP.

Alternatively, if you are wanting to travel down public highways, and you have noticed that the assorted criminal types (who are evidently on the loose and after the police) are mining the highways, an MRAP is just what the doctor ordered.

All of that said, an MRAP is just an expensive-to-operate truck. The assorted automatic weapons including sniper rifles, on the other hand, are really quite dangerous to the public. Especially when your officers have been trained to operate tactically as trigger-happy lunatics with no fire discipline (which seems to be the case in quite a few police departments these days).

max
['Good God, this is a silly country.']

21

J Thomas 08.21.14 at 9:41 pm

MRAPs are designed to survive IED/landmine attacks. (IEDs are essentially equivalent to land mines in terms of usage.)

Yes. And we saw in Iraq that when our soldiers had armor which stopped bullets, what worked was first RPGs and more important IEDs.

So presumably, come the Revolution, that’s what the revolutionaries will try to use. Probably the best way to slip troops past them into position will be to disguise them as civilians in civilian vehicles, and the next-best way will be in MRAPs.

Meanwhile, the US military would prefer not to maintain a lot of high-maintenance MRAPs which we won’t need to beat conventional armies, but only in the guerrilla war afterward occupying hostile civilians. A lot of them might prefer to hope we never need them again. If they can be pawned off on civilian law enforcement, the army can take them back if it ever needs them which will help bridge the gap before the crash program to make new ones produces results.

All of that said, an MRAP is just an expensive-to-operate truck.

Yes, heavy with armor on the sides and top too, right? And gun ports. Just the thing to intimidate heavily armed criminals/terrorists bunkered down expecting attack. A real tank would be better, but even more expensive. And even harder on any roads it happens to cross.

Are we actually heading there? I dunno. But if not then it’s only another waste item in the budget, and if we are then the time for the police to start preparing is now.

The assorted automatic weapons including sniper rifles, on the other hand, are really quite dangerous to the public.

Sure, but what if the civilians had that stuff and the police didn’t? The police would feel intimidated and rightly so. It might make more sense to give the police the great armor that stops those weapons instead, but that stuff is expensive and heavy.

['Good God, this is a silly country.']
['Does it bother you that we fit right in here?']

22

Meredith 08.21.14 at 9:57 pm

Better to get there via Eschaton and Roy Adroso’s droll humore (scroll down to Fargo):
http://www.eschatonblog.com/

Or go directly to James Fallows:
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/08/militarization-of-the-police-fargo-edition/378883/

So, the last major disturbance in Fargo was years ago at the Testicle Festival…. Note especially the Moorhead police chief’s response (and in fairness to Minnesota, Frances McDormand’s character was a Minnesotan!). It reminds me of a Massachusetts police chief’s refusal to get tasers for his officers. His argument: when you have certain instruments at your disposal, you not only will use them when you should not; you’ll let other skills atrophy (like learning how to talk a distraught or mentally disturbed person down).

23

Omega Centauri 08.21.14 at 10:34 pm

J Thomas 21. About the “revolution” exactly.

Of course the military loves to “use up” older equipment, as only a little bit of whining and our politicians always pony up for replacements. Not only have many of these suffered serious mechanical wear in the field, but they are still
optimizing the design, and a newer MRAP will probably offer better survivability for a given attack, than an older model. So the military is only too glad to find takers for the older stuff.

And it feels like free new toys for the department. Except that I suspect that maintenence for rarely used vehicles like this isn’t cheap -especially if you consider the cost per non-frivolous use.

24

PJW 08.22.14 at 12:17 am

J @ 7: Yikes. I bet they would have had that thing on the Pentacrest when the University Bookstore was set ablaze during the campus unrest of the ’60s (or maybe that incident occurred in the early ’70s?). I’m glad they didn’t have it in the ’80s when a group of us took over President Freedman’s office for a day or two as part of the Apartheid protests.

25

dilbert dogbert 08.22.14 at 3:50 am

@13
“I live in a low-crime county in Colorado which has an M113 armored personal carrier, on loan from the Army since 2005.”

I hope it is an M113A1. The gas version will burn like a torch. Hope the active shooter doesn’t have and RPG! Those cheap Chinese versions would blow a hole through all 6 inches of aluminum armor.

26

afeman 08.22.14 at 3:26 pm

“We don’t have anything like grenade launchers or anything like that,” [Placer County sheriff’s spokeswoman Dena Erwin] added.

“You should have seen what they wanted to do!”

27

Lyle 08.22.14 at 3:54 pm

@16

“The problem is that while your current sheriff isn’t abusing these tools, eventually one will. . . . Once people blur the lines between cops and soldiers, bad things almost always happen.”

Police have already been abusing their tools, including their fists and feet, against black people for over a century.

It’s kind of sickening, really, how white people pretty much don’t care about that, until it looks like the same thing might, some day, happen to them (“Look, LOOK! They’re militarizing! Sooner or later, they’re going to use those things!” etc. ad nauseam)

28

Peter Hovde 08.22.14 at 11:04 pm

29

max 08.23.14 at 5:47 am

Hi Jonah!

Yes. And we saw in Iraq that when our soldiers had armor which stopped bullets, what worked was first RPGs and more important IEDs.

Well, Saddam had cached quite a large stash of RPG rounds for his fighters, and you could tell the Pentagon recognized the problem in 2004-2004, when they started uparmoring Strykers with HEAT cages. Between the supply of RPGs running out and the HEAT cages, their fighters needed something new, which is where the IED came from. Hillbilly armor helped, but not enough.

So presumably, come the Revolution, that’s what the revolutionaries will try to use.

If you’re talking about the Turner Diaries revolution, I expect the revolutionaries will use the MRAPs.

Probably the best way to slip troops past them into position will be to disguise them as civilians in civilian vehicles, and the next-best way will be in MRAPs.

I don’t think you’re understanding where the agitation in the country is coming from, Jonah.

If they can be pawned off on civilian law enforcement, the army can take them back if it ever needs them which will help bridge the gap before the crash program to make new ones produces results.

Exactly! The old 80’s libertarians suggested that that kind of reasoning was behind the preference for heavier-than-air craft over dirigibles. Airlines can be used for military purposes.

A real tank would be better, but even more expensive. And even harder on any roads it happens to cross.

A real tank would work in the situation they described in the post.

It might make more sense to give the police the great armor that stops those weapons instead, but that stuff is expensive and heavy.

We’ve compromised and given them both!

['Does it bother you that we fit right in here?']

Who’s we, white man?

max
['France is very nice, I hear.']

30

Bostoniangirl 08.25.14 at 7:03 pm

In Davis? Ridiculous.

31

J Thomas 08.26.14 at 2:34 am

['Does it bother you that we fit right in here?']

Who’s we, white man?

['France is very nice, I hear.']

I’ve visited france.

My sisters seemed to get along fine there. They knew the language, they found romantic boyfriends, they got responsible jobs, everything just seemed to work out.

I didn’t speak the language well at all, and I had a lot of trouble with the customs. The people I met didn’t think the way I did, I was the clueless foreigner that they tolerated and kept dragging out of trouble.

When a beautiful woman seduced me and then her boyfriend she hadn’t told me about barged in and they started screaming at each other, they didn’t bother to include me in it at all. Everybody knew I was too slow to keep up. I probably should not have felt insulted, but I did.

My best friend had come to France several years before and somehow he fit right in. He spoke less french than I did, so he married an english teacher. She was a communist — she explained to me that only communists were allowed to teach school in france. He watched carefully while she spoke to their first-born son and he began to learn a perfect french accent. She thought their child would learn to talk before he did, but it was vitally important to have a perfect accent. One of my sisters worked for a rich Parisian man and she learned an upper class accent. Another got a university job in Lorraine, her speech was full of quaint sayings and everybody knew where she was from, and everywhere else they treated her much different from her sister. If my friend talked with an American accent people would treat him like an American. That is, lower than an arab. Like me.

It might be possible to do well there, but depending on who you are it may not be at all easy.

['This happened to you?' 'No, not me. But my sister....']

32

William Berry 08.26.14 at 3:44 am

Thanks, Lyle.

I am just as opposed to “police militarization” as the next white guy, but you are dead on.

E.g., everybody’s anti-police militarization hero, Radley Balko, is a notoriously “colorblind” libertarian. I’ve had to google for other accounts of some of his stories to learn that the affected individual was black, or hispanic, frequently a fact that was absolutely germaine to the case.

There are plenty of folks on the left-liberal to far left spectrum who insist on the primacy of socio-economic inequality, irrespective of the black-white racial issue.* What they fail to grasp is the aspect of immediacy, of proximacy, that such factors as racial relations can pose. Racial animus is the all-pervasive, go-to sublimative mode of (esp.) white working/ middle-class alienation in this current late stage of pathological, klepto-plutocratic capitalism. I won’t bother to trigger the Godwin Monkeys by drawing the obvious parallels. It can’t happen here, right?!

*Cf., also, Judith Butler on sex/ gender relations.

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