Monday, October 13, 2014

What you may not know: MRAP edition

Apologies for missing a week last week: Our committee week agendas largely featured items that I didn't expect to have wide appeal, items I had discussed previously or items I knew I'd get a chance to discuss again later. I don't take weeks off from this blog often, but I didn't feel like I had much to share last week that would have been a valuable use of your time or mine.

As you might expect following a quiet committee week, we have a relatively quiet agenda for Wednesday night's regularly scheduled council meeting. I do have some new information to share, however, about an item we've discussed before:

MRAP Update

On September 17 two alderpersons submitted a resolution calling for the city to review several issues related to the Appleton Police Department's new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.

The original resolution called for four actions:
  1. A budgetary review of the costs involved in keeping, outfitting and preparing officers to use the MRAP vehicle.
  2. A staff review of options for returning, selling or disposing of the vehicle.
  3. A review of the process of acquiring such vehicles or military surplus items in the future.
  4. A review of processes involving active shooters that could be conducted without using "military vehicles."
At the Safety & Licensing Committee's first meeting to discuss this resolution, we removed items 2 and 4 after an extended debate. The remaining resolution was referred back to committee at our October 1 council meeting, and was discussed again at that level last Thursday. The committee's recommendation remains the same, but I think the second conversation on the issue was very illuminating.

First of all, at that second meeting we had our first opportunity to hear the police department's policy on when the MRAP could be used. You can hear it for yourself at approximately 37:30 in the meeting video, but I'll also do my best to transcribe it here:

The primary utilization of the rescue vehicle is:

A) As a rescue vehicle for the evacuation of officers and our citizens from an unsafe environment
B) To safely insert a team, SWAT or a team of patrol officers or deputies into an otherwise unsafe environment
C) The rescue vehicle may be staged in a nearby area on incidents where the uses listed above could be reasonably anticipated, and
D) Absent reasons identified above, the rescue vehicle is not intended for use in a crowd-control environment.

At this point I think it's important to note that altering tactical policies isn't something we as a council can do. Those decisions fall under the jurisdiction of the Police & Fire Commission, not the Common Council. However, I think having this opportunity to review that policy addressed some of the concerns regarding the MRAP vehicle. 

Two weeks ago I wrote, "I'm in favor of a strong policy regarding when it (the MRAP) can or cannot be used. I don't want to see the MRAP in parades or see it used for crowd control or non-emergency purposes, but if the unthinkable happens and we need it, I want our officers to have access to it." The policy detailed above satisfies my concerns.

I suspect we'll still hear some debate on this issue on Wednesday night and perhaps we'll get the opportunity to discuss more proposed amendments, but as things stand right now I'm comfortable with the situation in play.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

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