UC Berkeley Decides Not to Militarize Campus Cops

Monday, July 09, 2012
Lenco Bearcat armored personnel carrier

Fresh from confrontations with students over tuition and fee increases, the University of California, Berkeley police have decided to cancel their order for an 8-ton military vehicle from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The campus cops had teamed up with the cities of Berkeley and Albany to apply for a $170,000 Urban Areas Security grant that would have paid for a Lenco Bearcat armored personnel carrier but decided to back out of the approved deal when Berkeley city council members, some university officials and community groups raised a ruckus.

“That is troubling to me given that last November the university was involved with the Alameda County Sheriff in beating protesters,” Councilman Jesse Arreguin said. “I'm very concerned about the lack of safeguards to ensure people will not be negatively affected by this armored vehicle simply for exercising their First Amendment rights.”

The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, called the vehicle a “Fright in Shining Armor” and said purchase of the “glorified cop toy” and “tool for intimidation” would send the wrong message

UC Berkeley police have a history of violent confrontations with protesters. Besides the November 2011 incident where cops in riot gear beat students (who had set up an Occupy Cal encampment) with batons, a clash two years earlier over impending custodial firings and a 32% tuitition hike ended in police beatings and rubber-bullet assaults. In 2007, police cut off food and water to demonstrators who had climbed trees to prevent them from being cut down for campus expansion, and then beat students on the ground who protested the action.  

The Berkeley Police Department defended the purchase, arguing that the armored vehicle would have been used for “active shooters, barricaded subjects and rescuing individuals.”

But, as Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates pointed out, they don’t really need the vehicle to handle situations that get out of control because nearby Oakland and San Francisco have similar military equipment and “we could call upon our neighbors.”  

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

UC Halts Purchase of Armored Truck (by Rebecca Rosen Lum, Berkeley Patch)

No Place in Berkeley for Police Armored Car (by Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle)

University of California, Berkeley Campus Police Will Not Be Allowed to Buy Armored Truck (by Tyler Kingkade, Huffington Post)

University of California Campus Police Have History of Excessive Force Against Protesters (by Tyler Kingkade, Huffington Post)

Berkeley, Albany, UC Armored-Vehicle Plan Dropped (by Matt Krupnick, Bay Area News Group)

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