Councilman Blasts PD's Acquisition of MRAP Vehicle, City Manager 'Not Happy'For an update to this report see
The Banning Police Department's acquisition of a surplus Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle and their subsequent crash of the heavily-armored truck in Arizona took place three months ago, but an acting police commander and the city's spokesman said Thursday they could not comment because a personnel investigation is still under way.
Mayor Debbie Franklin said Friday evening the city council was not consulted publicly about acquisition of the 18-ton armored vehicle before the Sept. 16 crash on Interstate 10 in Buckeye, west of Phoenix, which has resulted in a claim of more than $42,000 against the City of Banning.
City staff have yet to present a report to Banning's council, Franklin said in a phone interview.
Redlands police also acquired a similar armored vehicle without consulting their city council, a city spokesman confirmed to Patch on Monday.
"It has not been presented
to council yet and we don't have an estimate for any retrofits," City of Redlands spokesman Carl Baker said in response to inquiries. "We are not allowing photos of it until it has been retrofit."
It remained unclear Dec. 16 whether police departments in West Covina and Gardena consulted their city councils before they accepted surplus MRAPs from the Department of Defense and made arrangements to convoy the armored vehicles with Banning PD and Redlands PD personnel from Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
Given the incidents local police and deputies face from time to time, it's no surprise law enforcement agencies' tactical personnel nationwide are willing to accept free combat-ready MRAPs with roof-mounted machine gun turrets that cost the DoD in excess of $500,000 each.
But as the Department of Defense continues giving away hundreds of vehicles designed for "asymmetric warfare," the American Civil Liberties Union and others have criticized what they see as the increasing militarization of local law enforcement agencies, according to an Associated Press report published by the Military Times.
Banning's acquisition of its Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle and the crash were first reported by the Banning Informer, in September and November, respectively.
Records released to Patch last week, including police department emails, insurance claims and photos, reveal details of how Banning PD, Redlands PD, West Covina PD and Gardena PD came to possess their MRAPs, and how Banning PD's newest armored vehicle crashed on the westbound 10 in Arizona.
Banning police were exploring the possibility of acquiring a surplus armored vehicle earlier this year when Banning PD Lt. Phil Holder told Russ Gibson of Cal EMA:
"The Banning Police Department currently utilizes an older armored transport vehicle used in the past by a money transport company. The requested MRAP vehicle would enhance the safety of the department's tactical team when approaching critical incidents involving armed suspect(s)."
Holder's statement was included in a Law Enforcement Agency Armored Tactical Vehicle Request form signed by Banning chief of police Leonard Purvis on May 1, 2013.
Gibson is with the state Emergency Management Agency and helps coordinate with the Department of Defense 1033 Program, which permits the transfer, without charge, of excess military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies.
In July, Banning police Cpl. Joseph Feola emailed a Demilitarization Preparation Responsibilities Memo from Purvis to Gregory Dangremond, a property disposal specialist with the Defense Logistics Agency.
On July 22, a Federal Excess Property Program liaison with local law enforcement agencies distributed an email from Dangremond that reached Banning PD:
"Good morning everyone - great news - we are literally just a few days away from allocating over 500 MRAPs!
" . . . Also - quick note - although I can't guarantee specific variances they basically boil down to two different versions - the ones with 4 wheels and the ones with 6 wheels - using California as an example if the LEAs (law enforcement agencies) let me know which one they want I'll do my best to allocate them that way."
On Sept. 13, Holder told Purvis:
"The arrangements to pick-up our MRAP from Fort Bliss, Texas are now in place. Joe and I will fly out of Ontario Sunday afternoon on Southwest. . . .
"On Monday morning we will meet our contact at Fort Bliss to sign the final documents and take possession of the vehicle. We will then caravan back to California with Redlands PD, Gardena PD, and West Covina PD. We should arrive back into Banning sometime late Monday evening. . . . "
Photos from the City of Banning show Holder and Feola with a group of four MRAPs on Sept. 16, lined up and ready to go, fueling at a Chevron station, and later in the day, Banning PD's MRAP at the crash scene in Buckeye.
According to an Arizona Department of Public Safety crash report, Feola was driving the 2007 International Navistar MaxxPro MRAP about 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at an estimated speed of 75 miles per hour, west on the 10, when two tires on the MRAP blew out.
The 37,000-pound MRAP veered and struck a westbound Ford pickup driven by Steven M. Wells on the passenger side, pushed it into the median, and kicked up rocks, dirt and other debris that damaged an eastbound Chevrolet Impala, according to the crash report.
No one was injured but the crash was costly and the expense may end up being borne by Banning taxpayers.
The pickup was a 2013 four-door F150 4x4 SuperCrew XLT with 301 miles on the odometer, according to the crash report and Farmers Insurance Company of Arizona.
On Sept. 19, a Reimbursement Request from Holder to Purvis included a $550 Unique Heavy Recovery tow bill from the crash location to Phoenix and the tire shop, and $3,117 for installation of four tires and vehicle repair.
"A majority of the expenses are attributed to the incident in which the military vehicle sustained two blown tires in the Phoenix, Arizona area and our subsequent delay in returning to Banning," Holder told Purvis.
In a letter to the City Clerk of Banning dated Oct. 8, a Farmers Insurance Company of Arizona representative advised the City of Banning is expected to pay in full the Ford pickup driver's claim of more than $42,000.
"City agency vehicle first seen after I entered I-10 at mile post/exit 128," Wells wrote in his claim. "City agency vehicle was app. one half mile ahead of me. . . . Vehicle had pass. rear tire blow out, causing vehicle to collide with mine. . . . Vehicle is total loss, towing and storage fees."
A repair estimate for the Ford pickup totaled $22,083. Farmers Insurance declared the damaged vehicle a total loss, valued at $38,750. Final valuation of the claim of $42,173.75 includes sales tax, license transfer fee and deductible, according to Farmers.
International MaxxPro MRAP "is built
to withstand ballistic arms fire, mine blasts, IEDs, and nuclear, biological and chemical environments that threaten the safety of its crew," according to Navistar Defense.
The maximum road speed for MRAPs similar to the one acquired and crashed by Banning police is listed by multiple online sources at 65 mph. The posted speed limit where the crash occurred was 75 mph, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Approached in person Thursday after city records about the MRAP and the crash were released to Patch, Holder, one of Banning's two acting police commanders, and Banning city spokesman Bill Manis both declined to comment.
The Banning Police Department remained in possession of its MRAP this week. Retrofitting a surplus armored military vehicle for law enforcement can cost $100,000 or more. Whether Banning police will be allowed to keep their newest one remains to be seen.
This report was first published Friday Dec. 13 and updated Monday Dec. 16.
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