Letter to the Editor: The militarization of Downey PD

A BearCat armored vehicle used by the Nashville Police Department.

A BearCat armored vehicle used by the Nashville Police Department.

Dear Editor:

The City of Downey has successfully gotten you, the taxpayer, to be on the hook for a $300,000-plus (not including yearly maintenance fees) war machine to be used by the police force.

The City Council has recently authorized the purchase of a tactical armored vehicle, more commonly known as “BearCat”, for the Downey Police Department (DPD). Police Captain Mark McDaniel stated that with “the recent active shooters [that] we’ve seen throughout the country [...] rifles are being used, school shootings… time is of the essence in critical and tactical situations.”

Using the captain’s own words as a reference, we can safely determine that DPD’s main reasoning for this vehicle is for the prevention and response to active/school shooters, to which the natural response should be, “How is this going to stop any shootings exactly?”

The short answer is: It won’t.

The acquisition of military style weaponry is something that Americans overwhelming do not approve of and that the data proves does not work.

Jeremiah Mosteller at the Charles Koch Institute writes, “when looking at military-grade weapons specifically, the [...] study found that receipt of these weapons had minimal or no deterrent impact on crime. Multiple studies have confirmed concerns about the militarization of police, showing that it results in law enforcement using higher levels of force against citizens.”

This practice feeds into the police force’s already existing superiority complex that it has over its citizens all while contributing nothing to our safety. The police expect us to feel safer with the war machine they’re purchasing, when in reality, the facts show that us citizens are less safe when they have access to that kind of equipment.

The militarization of the Downey Police Department is coming under the guise of “safety”, as these things often do, and they’re using scare tactics to try and get their point across. According to Captain McDaniel’s statements, the police force has been considering this purchase for sometime, but they now see an opportunity to strike since our nation has been rocked by these recent shootings.

Our own police department is using the deaths of gun violence victims to manipulate the populous into buying them a war machine, all while our City Council members are complicit. This simply cannot stand.

If we were to look at the violent crime rates in Downey (which is the only type of crime this machine would be used for), Downey consistently ranks lower than both the California and national average with only 3.92 crimes committed per 1000 residents (https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ca/downey/crime).

The data also shows that despite a slight uptick in crime in recent years, the overall crime rate has dropped significantly since the early 2000s. The numbers show that these weapons are unnecessary, so why does DPD continue to push the narrative that we need extra protection?

To add insult to injury, according to the Downey Patriot, “no new training or special licensing is needed for operation of the vehicle” either. So not only do we have to pay for this ridiculous machine, but we also have to deal with ill-equipped and ill-trained officers controlling something that could potentially be used to kill others.

Let’s be honest, this is not a practical option to protect civilian lives, it is a new toy for the police force to play with.

With public confidence and trust in law enforcement continuing to decline since the 2000s and overwhelming proof that military-style machines don’t make the public safer, it truly boggles the mind as to why City Council approved of this expense.

Furthermore, Downey Police Department has yet to provide us with a good excuse as to why our money will be going towards a machine that will impact our civil liberties negatively. This is what oppression looks like, and it’s being done by our own city.

Christopher Portillo

OpinionStaff Report