SAN JOSE (KCBS) — Amid a national debate over the militarization of the police, the San Jose Police Department has decided to return a 15-ton armored vehicle it received earlier this year from the military surplus program.
San Jose police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol told KCBS the decision was made based on concerns for potential damage to the department’s image and community relationships.
“We want to keep their trust. We don’t want them to feel we are going off on another path with our police department,” she said. “We want them to feel comfortable about the tools that we use.”
Used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop transport, or MRAP, became a focus for debate after a military surplus vehicle and equipment were used at protests in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month when local law enforcement responded to civil unrest over the police killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
Although many media outlets reported the use of an MRAP in Fergusson, a smaller armored Bearcat was used. Bearcats are not military surplus and are typically purchased new.
Earlier this week, the City of Davis also decided to return its armored vehicle after complaints from residents.
According the San Jose Mercury News, Redwood City, South San Francisco, and Antioch, have decided to keep their armored transports,
Lt. Michael Remedios, SWAT commander for the South San Francisco Police Department, told the Mercury News that while he realizes the vehicles can be perceived as intimidating, they can be used to get police and emergency personnel into areas to recover victims from dangerous and unsecured areas, including crime or disaster scenes.
They have used the MRAP three times for high-risk warrants, Remedios said, and that it actually helps reduce violence.
“If we roll out to an armed-and-dangerous person’s house, they’re less likely to engage police officers,” he said.