In a 3-2 vote, the Davis City Council voted Tuesday night to send a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, military vehicle back to the federal government.
The belief is no matter what good use the police might have for this vehicle, it just doesn't fit in Davis.
"Our police in Davis have done a tremendous amount to build the trust in the community. They're fantastic," Davis Mayor pro Tempore Robb Davis said before the vote. "I really felt this particular piece of equipment there was a real strong risk of beginning to damage and wear away that trust."
Residents on both sides of the issue weighed in during public comment. One resident said the MRAP would keep residents safe by being "another tool for a day you hope never does come."
This past summer, the federal government gave -- for free -- the Davis Police Department the $700,000 MRAP. The city council didn't know about the new addition, nor did the citizens of Davis.
The fact that the police department won't get to keep the heavy-duty armored vehicle doesn't mean they won't get another one like it, but it won't look as intimidating. Somewhat less menacing SWAT vehicles include the Lenco BearCat, used by police in over 40 cities at a cost of $200,000 to $300,000 each.
Santa Barbara police have had one for about five years and according to Santa Barbara Chief of Police Cam Sanchez, "The last thing I want to tell our community is that we could have been ready and chose not to be. I don't want to answer those questions after that question is asked."
As Davis says goodbye to a free gift, the strategy shifts to a regional pitch. What if UC Davis, Yolo County and possibly other local cities were interested in sharing the cost of the acquisition and upkeep of a smaller SWAT vehicle like a Bearcat?
"At that point, then I think there's a very good chance that we will obtain what is needed to provide the safety of what the police needs are," Davis said.