Davis, Calif., city officials have directed the police department to return a surplus U.S. military armored vehicle to the federal government after residents, citing images seen during protests in Ferguson, Mo., expressed fears of militarization.
The Davis Police Department now has 60 days to get rid of a $689,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle, which police acquired through a U.S. Defense Department program, and must consider other rescue vehicle options.
"I am opposed to the investments that are made and then the results of those investments flowed back to our community in ways that may not hurt our community in a physical sense by are destructive in terms of not increasing our security but increasing our anxiety," Councilman Robb Davis said at a council meeting Tuesday.
A large crowd attended the meeting to protest the acquisition of the armored vehicle, including a man wearing a "Tank the Tank" T-shirt.
Concerns over police militarization were heightened after law enforcement used heavily armored vehicles and other military gear to confront protesters in Ferguson.
Davis police Chief Landy Black countered that the armored vehicle was unfortunately needed for police protection in high-risk situations.
"We have a genuine and job-specific need for the types of equipment that most people wish that they wouldn't have in their communities because of the nature of the job that we have," he said.
Although Davis is a safe community, Black said, certain situations have required police agencies to improve and increase their capabilities.
Police noted that armored vehicles were recently used to protect officers in Stockton during a shootout with armed robbers and during a running gun battle with a man who took a family hostage and shot at Roseville police officers.
The Davis Police Department took possession of the free vehicle two weeks ago through the Defense Department’s 1033 program -- administered by the California Office of Emergency Services -- which is aimed at repurposing federal and military equipment for local law enforcement.
Through the program, the police department has obtained a number of free surplus military hardware, including body armor, binoculars, riot helmets and training rifles.