San Jose Police to Return Military-Grade Armored Vehicle

Fearing backlash from the public, San Jose police have opted to get rid of a heavily armored 15-ton truck, a military hand-me-down the city received from the Pentagon earlier this year.

The San Jose Police Department, already under the microscope for quietly buying a drone, began talking about getting rid of the mine-resistant vehicle even before riots in Ferguson brought them national attention.

Police didn't want the vehicle's presence to breach the public's trust, as more people worry about the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, SJPD spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol told San Jose Inside.

"We maybe could have done it a little bit differently," she said. "It was never our intent to surreptitiously acquire anything."

The original plan was to use the vehicle to help the SJPD bomb squad, a regional resource, and to deploy it very infrequently.

"We thought about this a lot," Randol said. "We thought about ways to change the appearance, to make it look less like a military vehicle. We did some outreach to our citizen advisory board. We took into account some of the news coverage across the country, the public's fears of police militarization. We had to weigh the consequences. There's a lot to consider."

Ultimately, Randol said, SJPD didn't want to risk its reputation.

"We really value the community trust," she said. "And some of the feedback we got is that having this did, perhaps, change the community perception."

Hundreds of cities across the nation have received second-hand war gear through the U.S. Department of Defense in the past year with little-to-no public notice. M-16 rifles, silencers, grenade launchers and other instruments of war have wound up at local police agencies. Says the New York Times, which compiled a catalog of what was distributed through the Pentagon 1033 program: 

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

San Jose Inside's parent company recently made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for equipment distributed through the Pentagon's 1033 program. A document shows that since 2006, Santa Clara County law enforcement agencies, including SJPD, have received:

  • Thirty-one 5.56 millimeter rifles
  • One 7.62 millimeter rifle
  • Twenty-four "screen, camouflage"
  • A $44,722.00 utility truck
  • A $733,000 mine-resistant vehicle

The armored vehicle in San Jose is called a mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP for short. Brand name: Navistar Defense International MaxxPro. It's stands 10 feet tall and is designed to bear the brunt of roadside bombs. The Pentagon gave out 432 in the past year, including one each to Redwood City, Antioch and South San Francisco, which decided to keep them.

This is what they look like:

Civil rights activists commended police in San Jose and Davis, a small college town just west of Sacramento, for deciding to nix the MRAPs from their fleet. But they also argue that cities should revise local policies that allowed them to acquire military-grade equipment without public notice.

The Pentagon program that allows military transfers was created in the '90s over fears that street gangs were outgunning local law enforcement—a moot point now that crime has fallen to its lowest levels in decades.

Randol said San Jose's MRAP vehicle will be returned without compensation to the DOD, which will likely hand it off to another police department.

"It was given to us for free, so we will return it back to the military defense agency without compensation," she said. "They will give it to the next agency that has applied to have it."

If San Jose needs an armored vehicle, it will work with other Bay Area cities, maybe setting up an agreement to borrow on an as-needed basis, Randol said.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

44 Comments

  1. Let’s see if I’ve got this right… The leadership of the police department decided to acquire a particular piece of equipment, but before they could ever use it, they decided that possession of it threatens the public’s trust in the department.

    Questions for the leadership: Why’d the department get it in the first place? If it is somehow offensive now how was it that it wasn’t offensive then? By what mechanism did it become offensive (while in storage) and how was the public able to communicate its concern/fear/outrage to the department? Was there a secret vote, an avalanche of calls and letters, or was the concern transmitted through some sort of telepathy?

    Questions for the public: Were any of you solicited for your opinion on the matter, or do you know someone who was?

    Questions for the police chief and his performance-enhanced assistant: Do you feel any guilt over being paid to do a job for which you are wholly unqualified? Do you stand for anything besides your own self-interests? How many more of the decisions you’ve made previously can we expect you to arbitrarily reverse?

    Questions for the cops on the beat: How much more ineptness, cowardice, and disrespect can you brave folks tolerate?

    • Don’t be such a half empty glass guy.
      The main thing here is that San Jose has remained true to it’s progressive ideals.
      The police chief is a Hispanic American, the police spokesperson is a woman, and on top of that, this story was written by a gal.
      It’s all good!

      • How that is relevant to progressive ideals when it is toted as such seems patronizing to me. But if positive acclamation are the goal I suppose San Jose police department ought to make more decisions which it can reverse. It’s like breaking stuff in the house on a regular basis so mom can tell you how proud she is when you tell the truth about it

    • Finfan is spot on. SJPD must have decided that it was a beneficial tool or they would never have taken ownership of it, right? I am so tired of the City Manager and the Chief of Police cowering to the minority groups. By minority I mean those few that pretend to represent the thoughts and concerns of all citizens of San Jose.

      Finally, how much money has SJPD spent on the vehicle thus far? Has it already been painted? Has it already been equipped with computers? Equipped with emergency lights? How come we don’t have a picture of SJPD’s MRAP?

  2. This is nothing but a truck built to stand up to an explosive. Apparently, the life of an officer is not as important as offending some members of society who are offended by a military leftover. The police chief made a big mistake on this one, and Sam LIccardo is using this as an opportunity for more political pandering. I have to wonder why Dave Cortese is being so quiet on this and other matters. This is a great opportunity for Mr. Cortese to point out Liccardo’s political pandering, and this truck was for nothing more than to protect people from explosions, and keeping an officer from getting maimed or killed. Please Mr. Cortese, go on the offense; the election is upon us and this election is yours to lose.

  3. I had seriously high hopes that the Chief of Police would at least try to help his department as well as his workforce , BUT Obviously he’s in Reeds front pocket . What a train wreck this city and Public Safety has become , and if Liccardo wins , things will get exponentially worse for the residents of San Jose

  4. JG,

    Sorry, I was born to think half-empty whenever handed something half-full-of-xxxx. What most ticked me off about this episode was how the two idiots responsible, Chief Esquivel and AC Eddie Garcia, chose to expose a spokesperson — an out-of-the-loop sergeant, to media questions she in no way could credibly answer. While I would never have criticized the department had they refused the vehicle in the first place, by making the decision to accept it (and invest in it) the chief and assistant chief became personally and professionally responsible to the public for questions about that decision, as well as any questions/concerns about its intended use. Instead of standing tall like men, they pushed a cheerleader out into the line-of-fire.

    These guys are paid (very well) to make good decisions, stand behind them, and be answerable to the public. But what they do is make dumb decisions, reverse them on a whim, and then hide behind their spokesperson. Strike one, strike two, strike three. Will someone please call them out?

  5. If the city officials are really concerned, they should keep it and direct the police department to prepare to defend the citizens of San Jose against foreign invaders and the FEDS. Start a gun safety and marksmanship program with the support of the police department as instructors for the younger generation and have the able bodied men of the community trained to defend their homes and their city. You want a National Security objective Mr. Obama? There you have it.

  6. What I find even more amusing with this weak kneed reversal is that the SJPD acknowledges that if they need the unit in the future they will borrow one. So much for avoiding the “militarization” of police.

    When will the police push back against these silly agitators and say enough? “You have asked us to solve every societal problem imaginable, so let us use the tools to do so.” The police don’t answer to the ACLU or Ladoris Cordell. That they were not consulted via “transparency” is not the SJPD’s problem nor is it any solution to their real concerns. Their real concern is a totally different policing model that if it worked anywhere, it would be applied everywhere.

    • That is a great point. SJPD is admitting that at some point, this could be a useful tool in saving life’s. They are just saying they will need to “borrow” one of these fortified trucks from another police department. This just shifts the perception issues and financial problems to some other police department. It used to be SJPD was the department was the place other department turned to when they needed help with complex investigations or mutual aid situations, and now SJPD is turning to the surrounding smaller departments for this. It is so telling of what has happened to the once mighty SJPD. Again, I call on Dave Cortese’s campaign, for the sake of SJPD and the safety of the citizens, to turn up the heat, or you are going to lose this election. You need to expose that SJPD will soon have less than 900 officers and falling, for a city that should have at least 2,000 officers. Your campaign has been too quiet and has not taken on Sam Liccardo. The election is only 8 or so weeks away.

      • The objective of these programs is so that no one agency has all the equipment… so they have to turn to each other for mutual aid, so they have to work together to ensure all communities have the needed support. That’s part of SJPD’s problem — they don’t play well with others. If you properly kiss their butts and treat them as the big fish, they’ll let you play in their ever increasingly small pond. No agency should be allowed to parcel out equipment on a “as we see fit” basis rather than an “as needed basis” as SJPD continues to attempt to do.

        Yes, SJPD has problems with their city management, what people fail to realize is the Great City of Oz was already starting to have it’s reputation crumble among the law enforcement community and the problems go deeper than just a poor mayor, but an overall poor attitude.

        • Somebody in this valley should have this armored vehicle that is being offered for free, so it is available to every local law enforcement agency; it makes no difference which agency. I could care less if the Humane Society had it, as long as it was available. Sorry you do not like the SJPD. I have seen numerous times when they have happily helped other agencies, be it canine assistance, the helicopter, extra officers, filling on calls, investigative help, etc, where nobody had to “kiss their butts.” The women and men of the SJPD are every bit as dedicated as any other officer at other PD’s around here. If you think they have an “overall poor attitude,” you have no understanding of what they have been through the past few years.

        • You offer a lot of opinion Casey. Can you post some facts and or credentials to support those opinions? If not, it would only be right for you to promptly edit/delete your post.

          I don’t work in healthcare. You won’t find me opining on how well VMC gets along with RMC vs. O’Connor vs Kaiser.

      • So, in other words, it’s okay for another police department to have it and they can “borrow” it if they need it, but it’s not okay for SJPD to have it, per their thought? Does something sound a little off, here?

  7. Embarrassed that I worked for this city for 30 years, what a joke that this spineless SJPD Command staff will do every thing to kiss the council’s behind. Have lost all respect. I know you will all apply to other cites. Next you idiots will support Sam the village idiot. Thanks God I retired before you clowns took over. I encourage all public safety to take better jobs while they can.

  8. We are a pathetic lot aren’t we? Like a lot of guys that we payed to go to the office down town, what a laugh! you are Retired!. Like we need Military Toys to suppress our own Villagers. You guys Nuts?
    No, your not Nuts, Simply Pathetic!!
    We don’t know who you are, but we know what you are NOT!
    AAAAAHHHHH A comforting thought!.
    Enjoy the money from your embarrassing retirement!

    • This is a truck that can withstand a bomb. Are you scared of all trucks, or just this one? Do you understand there are no weapons built into this truck, and it is built only for defensive purposes? It is only a matter of time before a terrorist group or some homegrown terrorist makes this truck necessary in this area. Do you think something like the Boston Marathon bombing could not happen here? Tell you what, when that does happen here, you can be the one to disarm the bomb. You are a fool if you don’t think Silicon Valley would be a prime target for terrorist groups. Must be nice to live in your world where these things only happen on TV in some obscure country. I look forward to your response, no doubt with everything capitalized. Have you thought of having a computer shop check out your capital lock key?

    • I hope that “RETIRED” does enjoy a long retirement , He earned it !

  9. You are obiously still reading too many Comic Books. Who gets to put the Bomb in the truck, or has anyone thought of that? perhaps placing Military Tanks at each gate way into San Jose would be a better message.
    Kinda like Quetzalcoatl at Cesar Chavez Park.
    No bombings there since it was erected..
    Pathetic is still a good word for the attitude expressed here!

    • Columbine or any other mall type mass casualty shooting would be an ideal situation to deploy this type of vehicle for rescue purposes while keeping rescuers and rescue-es safe inside. Did Littleton officials ever think they would have an incident like the one they did? Nope probably not. Your rationale is absolutely ludicrous Village black smith idiot. You are just another city hall/mercury shill pushing your agenda. This vehicle could easily drive through a fortified gate and rescue people in almost any live fire situation Too bad your silly little mind cannot grasp any of this…In your mind its all about the bomb aspect and the reality is that this is a rescue vehicle ..

  10. Perhaps erected, is not a good term, perhaps laid there is a better term. for Quetzalcoatl, God of corn, and a marque for Acme Toilets during large events. You Go San Jose!!!!!

  11. I think they should keep it. Nice, big free tank and they are going to give it back because they are afraid of what the public will say. I can’t believe it.

  12. Disgusted opined: “and if Liccardo wins , things will get exponentially worse for the residents of San Jose”
    And of Cortese is elected, things will get exponentially worse for all non-union-member taxpayers. Ben Field, the SBLC honcho who is a former lawyer suspended from the practice of law for four years by the State Bar for multiple acts of unethical behavior, will be the man behind the throne. Go to Calbar.org and search for Benjamin Thomas Field for the full particulars.
    Yet again, we are provided with a choice between the lesser of 2 evils, courtesy of the fact that money buys elections. No matter how good your ideas are, if you can’t raise $1million, you can’t get past the primary.

  13. MICKEYTHEWRENCH got it wrong when he concluded: “You want a National Security objective Mr. Obama? There you have it.” The purpose of the training he espouses would be to protect us from our government, not from outside invaders.

  14. I agree with DAVE about the weak-kneed reversal of the acquisition of the vehicle by the Chief, and FINFAN’S decrying of shoving a (affirmative action PC selection) cheerleader under the bus. Can anyone remember who was the last chief of SJPD who actually had a pair?
    I also agree with Jim Unland’s comment that we should provide our officers with all necessary tools to do their job; especially since this vehicle cost SJ taxpayers ZERO $$.
    At the rate we’re going , the entire police force will fit into that vehicle soon.

  15. Casey Thomas,

    If you see panic here then it’s only because you’re seeing what you want to see. The pros and cons of SJ having this vehicle are hardly mentioned here, the focus being on how this episode once again exposes the dismal state of leadership in the police department.

    I see no evidence that anyone here wants to be in on, or pay attention to, every item, tactical or otherwise, sought by the police department. That’s the job of the chief, his assistant (the day-to-day guy), and the city manager. We expect these people to make sound decisions and perform in a manner that reflects the competence for which we pay good money. Obviously we are not getting our money’s worth.

    Nonetheless, feel free to continue LOL-ing… maybe it’s what you need to lessen the discomfort caused by whatever bug it is up your whatever where.

  16. In addition to its potential value in protecting bomb unit members, the truck also would have been a valuable rescue tool. Imagine a scenario in which a shooter with a high powered rifle has wounded an officer or citizen. The wounded person or people are still on the ground and the shooter is still at large, barricaded in a position of advantage. This armored truck might be the only way to safely get those injured out of the situation and to the hospital. It could save lives. Does this happen everyday? No, but once would be enough.

    At possibly the most critical time in its history, when strong leadership is most needed, SJPD is left with a Chief who remains silent about the reasons why so many officers have left. He does his best to minimize the situation, apparently attempting to protect Reed, Liccardo and the rest of those responsible for inflicting so much damage to a once great department. He has gone as far as manipulating crime definitions to try to make things look better than they are. Reversing himself on this truck, bending to even the most gentle of political breezes at the expense of a potentially life saving piece of equipment, is just the latest example of his failure as a leader. He should be ashamed of himself.

  17. Pentagon 1033 program. Granade Launchers, Silencers, M16s, Are you guys ready for all out war? They are giving these weapons away like a drug addicts gives away their first hit to teenagers. Only is Silly Con Valley!

  18. It is unfortunate that we “know it all” humans have to still be burned by the to remind ourselves that it is hot.

  19. I have had second thoughts about returning all of that military war junk. I was awakened at 3:30 am , by an article in the Mercury News about a 16 year old Gerardo Jorge Medina. who died while under the restraint of the SJPD, with a gun shot wound in his stomach.
    The group that was rushing him to the hospital at the very least should be honored as heros. I would have done as such, knowing what the response times are for emergency services in that area.
    Any one of us would have risked all to get this innocent boy to medical care.
    What awakened me this morning was the callouse and contempt shown by the Eastside cops..
    The True American Way would have been to escort these Heros to the nearest hospital with this dieing Boy. Just minutes away.
    Reed, Chief and Doyle with all the beheadings and elevator violence we are seeing, , these officers of the law have come to ignight contempt in the community they are entrusted to protect.
    You are creating an atmosphere where you may need that military junk. Sooner than you think.
    That said, I doubt that i stand alone. My prayers go out to Gerardo’s family.
    My innocent Son Paul then 16 was left for dead by 3 heinous punks. that stabbed him in the brain and beat him to the ground. Two San Jose Police officers got my son to the hospital, and saved his life. I am forever grateful to them.
    After years of therapy, Paul became my partner at South Bay Bronze, and became the best foundry Man I have ever known. He earned the title of “VULCAN” ” God of Fire. Melting tons of bronze for humanity…
    Yet we are all still suffering the agony of almost loseing our only son to such horrific violence.
    Gerardo was violated completely.
    Perhaps now there is still time to close my eyes and dream of the compassion needed to sustain our community.

    • So you thank the San Jose Police for saving your son’s life, but then immediately assume that the details contained in a lawsuit are 100% accurate and jump to the conclusion that the involved officers were callous and uncaring? I’m glad your son’s life was saved, but you obviously learned nothing about the nature of police officers in the process.

  20. Pete Malloy,
    One thing is obious!
    Gerardo is Dead. Investigation or not. Whether he could not be saved is not at issue here.. He was being rushed to the hospital and no heed was taken by these cops about his condition when they stopped the car .That, Pete Malloy is Truly Un American.
    You are the one that does not have a clue about the nature of police officers in the process. They are there to save lives.
    Not condemn the dying!
    Especially a child.

  21. Pete Mallory,
    After reading your response above, I went to the FBI Furguson City Investigation. I read every thing that was available on this shooting. I saw one commonality .
    Contempt! By police officers.
    We can build a Grand Jury, but an FBI investigation is the way to send that message to communities that have been rotting from the inside out and now are starting to reveal them selves.
    President Obama may already have a task force of crack FBI Agents, that are assigned to investigate incidents by Cities that have discredit them selves by the brutal force of their police depts.
    The Federal Gov. should be responsible for the phycological condition of our City’s Police Depts.they are giving their lethal military junk too. The results from this task force would be very interesting as well as reassuring.
    Watts, Ferguson, could we be next? I hope so,
    The cartels are kicking our ass.

  22. The FBI’s purpose in Ferguson is not to conduct an investigation but to perform a political exorcism, for what ails that city is not a police department gone rogue but a city possessed by the demon* of black crime and incivility. The FBI’s task will be to partake in a voodoo dance, publicly sacrifice an innocent or two, distribute a truck load of booty, assure the black half of the community that their problems were the work of demons, not their own despicable behavior, and then pack up and take their show back on the road.

    I would find more dignity cleaning outhouses with a spoon than serving as an agent on that investigative team.

    *Here’s some statistics on that demon from nearby St. Louis:.
    African-Americans are 49.2 percent of the population, but are responsible for 92 percent of homicide, 78 percent of rape, 93 percent of robbery, 87 percent of aggravated assault, and 82 percent of burglary.

    And some from the state:
    In Missouri, African-Americans are 11.6 percent of the population and 20.4 percent of the poor, but are responsible for 60.7 percent of homicide, 43.7 percent of rape, 70.9 percent of robbery, 41.8 percent of aggravated assault, and 41.6 percent of burglary.

    As you can see, Village Idiot, the root of the problem just has to reside in the minds of the police officers.