Iowa City City Council to seek community feedback on military vehicle

The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, which was shared with Iowa City Police Department in 2014, has responded to seven deployments in the city since 2014.


Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan

The Iowa City City Council is seen at an Iowa City City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan

Sabine Martin, News Editor

The Iowa City City Council will seek feedback from the south district in Iowa City about the replacement of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.

The MRAP vehicle was assigned to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in 2014 by the federal government through the military surplus program, 1033.

The Iowa City Police Department has deployed the MRAP seven times, with four of the incidents located in the Iowa City south district, Iowa City Police Chief Dustin Liston wrote in a memo to city councilors.

The MRAP has responded to 19 call-outs in Johnson County since the county was assigned the vehicle.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors has also considered the removal of the MRAP, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan

Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel suggested an alternative to the MRAP, the BearCat manufactured by Lenco, at a Johnson County Board of Supervisors meeting on June 17.

Liston told the councilors on Tuesday that MRAP alternatives, like the BearCat, run at $250,000 per vehicle.

To purchase the alternative to the MRAP, City Manager Geoff Fruin said the city will analyze where the police budget is at any given time of year to replace the MRAP.

RELATED: Johnson County Board of Supervisors consider removal of MRAP vehicle

Efforts to replace and end the use of the MRAP began last summer following the Black Lives Matter protests.

The Iowa Freedom Riders requested a letter from the city council to Johnson County officials in support of selling the MRAP vehicle in a list of demands, as previously reported by the DI.

City Councilor Laura Bergus said she is hoping the city council can address the police department’s usage of the MRAP after the Iowa City Police Department deployed the vehicle at the end of May.

“That was really disappointing given that last June we had sent a letter asking them to get rid of the MRAP and had the understanding that presumably that meant that we thought it shouldn’t be used by anyone,” Bergus said.

Bergus said she does not think that Iowa City should buy the BearCat because a military vehicle would still be present in the city.

“It does harm when it rolls through a neighborhood,” she said. “And that certainly has an impact, particularly when it goes to the same houses repeatedly, on the children in the neighborhood, the children that live in those homes.”

Mayor Bruce Teague said the city wants to do what they can to be aware of the “mental anguish” that the MRAP causes in communities.

“I want to reiterate, I say get rid of the MRAP…I think we need to look at another option,” Teague said.

Fruin said the city’s police forces are planning to use Mobile Crisis, a service to aid people to process a traumatic incident in their neighborhood, more frequently.

Liston said the Iowa City Police Department needs to be able to feel like they have the tools to address a shooting similar to the shots fired reported in Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall on July 25.

“Most of the time we can do it without, without that tool, but sometimes we can’t and I would hate to think that we gave up an opportunity to arrest one of these people because we didn’t have the tools,” Liston said.