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  • SJPD ditches armoured transport vehicle

    What does everyone think - should departments use military surplus vehicles?

    SAN JOSE -- Amid a national furor over police militarization, the San Jose Police Department has decided to get rid of a 15-ton armored vehicle it received earlier this year from a federal military surplus program.

    San Jose's move comes right on the heels of similar plans by the city of Davis to jettison its mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop transport, or MRAP. Among the handful of other Bay Area agencies that own the hulking transports, Redwood City, South San Francisco and Antioch are standing by them.

    In San Jose, the MRAP, designed to withstand improvised explosive devices used against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been in an undisclosed storage garage in the city. It was being outfitted for street use when police brass -- already facing criticism for their recent purchase of a drone -- decided it wasn't worth the potential damage to the department's image and community relationships.

    San Jose police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol said internal department conversations about forfeiting the MRAP were already happening before the vehicles gained wide notoriety during the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, where local police deployed them for crowd control and sparked a national conversation over their use on American streets.

    "We've been going through the analysis process," Randol said. "It is a useful tool, but we realize it could be viewed by the community as the militarization of SJPD. It could create a divide, and we want the community's trust."

    The decision to give back the vehicle is the second such move in Northern California this week: Tuesday night, the Davis City Council ordered their police chief to get rid of his department's MRAP.

    "Symbol matters. We are a species that uses symbol, and this symbolizes the most destructive force on the planet, which is the U.S. military," Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis said at the Davis council meeting.

    He added "this piece of equipment, because of its powerful symbolism, will hurt" trust between police and residents.

    Several agencies in the Bay Area have some form of armored transport, but only a handful have an MRAP, with San Jose the only Santa Clara County city to have one. The vehicle, standing about 10 feet tall, dwarfs most fortified vehicles used by police, such as the more commonly used Bearcat.

    In addition to its size, the MRAP is designed to withstand the kinds of roadside bombs that killed scores of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. San Jose got the half-million dollar vehicle, manufactured by BAE Systems and known as a Caiman, for free through the Pentagon's 1033 program, which donates surplus equipment to law-enforcement agencies.

    "It was acquired to provide protection to our bomb unit members," Randol said. "We are the regional bomb facility. We are a resource in the county and statewide."

    Micaela Davis, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, credited police leaders for the decision but took issue with how it came and went with little public oversight, echoing protests from the organization over the department's acquisition, also earlier this year, of an unmanned aerial vehicle that is currently shelved pending the formation of a use policy and community input.

    "The department should be commended for responding to concerns," Davis said of San Jose. "But it brings up questions about whether it was needed in the first place. It's why public hearings should be required on the front end."

    The pending return of the MRAP is unpopular with much of the rank and file at SJPD, who are backed by Sgt. Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association.

    "This was politically expedient. I don't know why you wouldn't want the best equipment for your officers," he said. "You can't predict the hazards and dangers that will come in 10 or 20 years."

    He noted the integration of military equipment in police work is long-standing.

    "Helicopters were primarily a military vehicle. So are AR's (rifles), and so are the tactical vests and helmets we wear," Unland said. "Those come from military usage, have been incorporated in law enforcement, and save lives. If there are issues of trust with the community, explain the use, and create a firm policy of when we can use it and when we can't."

    But LaDoris Cordell, the city's Independent Police Auditor and a retired judge, said community trust in police is threatened by the show of might that such an armored vehicle projects.

    "SJPD, if it is to continue its efforts to build trust with the communities it serves, must not go down the path of militarization," she said.

    In Redwood City, spokesman Malcolm Smith said police leaders are keeping those sensitivities in mind as they write guidelines for the transport's use, though it has already been rolled out for a major event -- the city's Fourth of July celebration.

    South San Francisco says its MRAP has already come in handy.

    "It has a horrible public perception, but in reality, this is designed just to protect the occupants," said Lt. Michael Remedios, SWAT commander for the South San Francisco Police Department.

    Remedios said the vehicle can bring police and emergency personnel closer to a hostile scene to give immediate help to victims without waiting for an area to be secured. He also highlighted its ability to traverse broken streets and downed power lines after a disaster.

    He also contended that the imposing nature of the vehicle can prevent violence. On three occasions since his department got the MRAP in October, South San Francisco police used it to serve high-risk search warrants.

    "It looks intimidating," Remedios said. "If we roll out to an armed-and-dangerous person's house, they're less likely to engage police officers."

  • #2
    15 tons is alot of body bags they will need to replace it with.Guess Swat and Tac teams are not as important and what the media tells the public they need there.

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    • #3
      Why not? Police departments have used armored vehicles since at least the 1920s. It is irresponsible for a modern agency to not have a protective vehicle to enter a hot zone and rescue downed victims or emplace officers to abate the threat. Surplus is a hell of a lot cheaper than buying it.

      The people screaming about militarization of the police are uninformed, emotionally-driven drama queens.
      Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

      I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq

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      • #4
        Political correctness instead of Officer safety.
        Last edited by sanitizer; 08-30-2014, 02:47 PM.

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        • #5
          Apparently San Jose & Davis need to review the footage of the Northridge BofA bank robbery...
          This Space For Rent

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          • #6
            Why should we be surprised? There you have it. Political correctness at it's best, worst, take your pick.Typical of the moral and ethical courage????running so much of this country.

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            • #7
              Nice to see they are placing officer safety above image.-----------------(missing the sarcasm font)
              Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

              My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

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              • #8
                That's what happens in one of the most liberal areas of the state of Ca and the country.
                Professionalism always, courtesy until it's time not to be.

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                • #9
                  California officers have been under attack the last few weeks ,To see departments do this at the same time as all that happening,Its a slap in the face of everyone there wearing a badge.

                  Wonder what would happen if all the families of police officers there got together and did a protest rally and marched with their hands in the air saying dont shoot we give up also.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jdthor View Post
                    California officers have been under attack the last few weeks ,To see departments do this at the same time as all that happening,Its a slap in the face of everyone there wearing a badge.

                    Wonder what would happen if all the families of police officers there got together and did a protest rally and marched with their hands in the air saying dont shoot we give up also.
                    What really needs to happen is the areas that are high risk need to be cordoned off. Stop responding when they call for help. When they complain, tell them it is too risky to respond and to deal with it themselves, since they saw fit to complain about the tools used. The quote "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it" comes to mind.

                    I bet it wouldn't change then either though. Just more marching and the ghetto's would fall in on themselves.
                    Last edited by kermit315; 08-30-2014, 04:20 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ccthompsfs View Post
                      That's what happens in one of the most liberal areas of the state of Ca and the country.
                      California was once a safe place to live and raise a family; unfortunately the Gold Rush and Railroad change that.

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                      • #12
                        Looks like San Jose bought a Lenco BearCat in 2006. Why is that inadequate?

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                        • #13
                          Can't they just paint it pink with some flowers or something..

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Seventy2002 View Post
                            Looks like San Jose bought a Lenco BearCat in 2006. Why is that inadequate?
                            Who said it was? But if you have the ability to have more assets without further expenditure beyond maintenance, would you not want to increase available assets? The reactions are based on scary looks, not on actual functions of the equipment.

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                            • #15
                              There are few things stupider than not using appropriate equipment because it doesn't 'look' right.

                              I've heard this argument at my agency for thigh holsters and cargo pants because they make us look too 'paramilitary'. It took years to ditch our revolvers because the chief before last didn't like them. Our vehicles all have stickers saying 'Police' because 'POLICE' was deemed too 'aggressive'. Our change to dark blue uniforms apparently makes us less approachable.

                              It's not like these things are being used as patrol vehicles. Why wouldn't you use armoured vehicles during riots?

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