Antioch council agrees to retire, replace police department’s military vehicle

An officer in the top of the Antioch Police Department’s MRAP shot multiple non-lethal rounds into the Aster Drive apartment where the suspect had barricaded himself on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Herald file photo

By Allen D. Payton

At the request of Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, following comments from two members of the public, one who thought it was put to good use, the city council members discussed the police department’s MRAP military vehicle during their meeting Tuesday night, May 23, 2023. They agreed to keep it for now and at the request of District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica, APD staff will search for a non-military alternative.

The Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) military light tactical vehicle was donated to the City by the federal government. As previously reported, the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency’s 1033 program allows the Pentagon to give extra military equipment to local police departments across the United States. It’s part of their mission of disposing obsolete and unneeded excess property turned in by U.S. military units around the world. The type of property ranges from military-specific equipment and vehicles to generic office furniture, computers, medical items, and shop equipment. (See related article)

The department relabeled it a “Rescue Vehicle” and uses it for intense situations including stand-offs with armed suspects as occurred a few times in the past two years. (See related article)

“The only thing I would ask is, I don’t believe we need the tank,” Thorpe stated. “There are alternatives to the tank. I don’t think we need this. The MRAP was designed for something completely different. The MRAP was not designed for the streets of Antioch. Police officers are not trained with the MRAP. Given where we’re out I don’t think it looks good for Antioch. There’s no room for militarized equipment. I hope council can agree to that.”

“We would like to look at an alternative, too…moving into the 21st Century…if council is interested,” said Lt. Joe Vigil.

“There are armored vehicles that we can look at that keep our community safe,” District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica said. “I’m willing to do it…working with the chief, maybe the mayor pro tem, something that’s law enforcement based. There are plenty of them out there. I’m definitely willing to work with the chief and work through any proposals and bring it back to council for discussion.”

“I don’t necessarily know what the MRAP is used for. People say it looks scary,” said Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker. “I do believe there is a necessity to use such a vehicle in the community…to keep people safe. While the council pursues a different vehicle that’s more suitable…that will come at a cost. The MRAP that we all want off the streets will stay in commission while trying to obtain a different vehicle.”

“Mayor Pro Tem, there are some options to reduce those costs. There are grant programs,” Vigil responded. “We are willing to explore every option.”

“I do believe the police department is capable of finding an alternative. I don’t believe it’s necessary to form a committee,” Thorpe said.

“It’s the policy that I’m concerned about,” Torres-Walker responded.

“Let’s separate those things,” Thorpe stated.

“Because it’s not coming from the military it will be purchased,” Vigil explained. “We would either sole-source or send out an RFP and bring it before council.”

“I think she’s talking about policy, when we deploy it,” Thorpe said. “And any policy for the police department would come before the Police Oversight Commission.”

“To clarify, the current vehicle stays in operation until we find another vehicle,” Barbanica stated.

“I’m open to that and to immediately appointing people to the Police Oversight Commission,” Torres-Walker said with a chuckle.

“As soon as my support is hired,” Thorpe responded. “I’m not a secretary. I don’t coordinate people’s schedules.”

City Attorney Thomas L. Smith asked for a motion and vote which Barbanica attempted to make. But because Thorpe said the policy included with the agenda item was incomplete, the item must return for a future council vote.

No Comments so far.

Leave a Reply