UC Berkeley police forced to nix purchase of military-style vehicle
BERKELEY, Calif.—Public outcry has caused the police department at the University of California here to back out of a plan to buy a military-style armored truck with a federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
The UC Berkeley Police Department, along with the Berkeley and Albany city police departments, planned to use a $169,000 grant from DHS's Urban Areas Security Initiative program to buy the armored truck, called a Lenco BearCat. However, criticism of the plan emerged when the acquisition came to the attention of the public and city and campus officials, according to a local TV station.
The plan was soon dropped due to public pressure. "Law enforcement’s interest in obtaining a vehicle that would protect officers during situations involving oncoming gunfire (or to rescue victims during such situations)—such as occurred at Oikos University in Oakland a few months ago—is understandable," says a joint statement from the school's chancellor and the mayors of Berkeley and Albany. However, "campus administrators evaluated the proposal and concluded that such a military-style vehicle is not the best choice for a university setting."
University of Virginia Professor Dewey Cornell, an expert in violence prevention and school safety, criticized the plan in comments made to Campus Reform. He said grant money would be better spent on prevention than on things like armored trucks given that, by his calculations, the average college can expect a homicide about once every 480 years. "With all we hear we hear about the federal deficit it’s a shame there is money available for things like this but not for prevention," Cornell was quoted as saying. "If a university has to resort to a BearCat that means there is a failure somewhere else."
UC Berkeley officials are in the process of canceling the order for the vehicle. Officials in Berkeley and Albany agreed with the university’s decision, according to the statement.