Tuesday, September 16, 2014

College campus cops with grenade launchers and bayonets

Last week The Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that nearly 120 colleges and universities have acquired [surplus military] equipment through the 1033 program since 1998.

Working off of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, The Chronicle found that colleges collected equipment running the gamut from office supplies to M-16s to weapons one would only expect to find on a battlefield. The Arizona State University police received 70 M-16s. Lincoln University, in Missouri, ordered 15 military backpacks and 20 bayonets. And the University of Central Florida police department owns an M-79 grenade launcher.

College professors and administrators defend the acquisition of Pentagon equipment for campus police by arguing that 1) the gear is free and 2) why not? ...

But the “better safe than sorry” totally ignores the possibility that owning such weapons could create the urge to use them. That isn’t to suggest that campus cops will open fire on students for no reason, but they could well overreact to a protest—just as the Ferguson police did. ...

Possession of military assault weapons sends a downright bizarre message as to what the campus police see as their purpose, or mission. They exist to keep the peace, not subdue a hostile population, but students might feel otherwise if they encountered their supposed protectors in assault gear and bayonets.
--Juliet Lapidos, NYT, on the militarization of campus cops