Surplus military gear added to campus police arsenal

President Obama urges review of equipment program
By: | Issue: October, 2014
October 6, 2014

One of the more enduring images from the recent protests in Ferguson, Mo., was that of armored military vehicles rolling down the streets of the city.

It was the result of the Department of Defense Excess Property Program, also called the 1033 program, that transferred surplus military equipment to law-enforcement agencies around the country.

But many have been surprised to learn that this equipment is also showing up on college campuses (as well as in some K12 school districts). The equipment is free to qualifying schools, except for the cost of ammunition and training.

According to information released by the Pentagon, a partial list of equipment and campuses includes:

  • A $65,000 armored truck, 16 12-gauge shotguns, 49 M16 rifles at the University of Maryland.
  • A Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle at Ohio State.
  • A new Army Humvee at Florida State.
  • M-16 rifles at Florida International University, Northwestern State University (La.), the University of Louisiana-Monroe, The College of William and Mary (Va.), Indiana University-Bloomington, and Old Dominion University (Va.).
  • Shotguns and rifles at the University of Maryland, and, in Baltimore, Morgan State University and Coppin State University.
  • Boats and a 2.5-ton military cargo truck at Vincennes University (Ind.).

Why do the campus police feel the need for such firepower? “As we have seen with events in the past—if you look at Virginia Tech, which is not too far from us—we see incidents on campuses with active shooters, and they’re using an increased amount of firepower, which is not what we want,” notes University of Maryland Police spokeswoman Sgt. Rosanne Hoaas.

But Claire Gastanagna, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Virginia, has doubts. “The idea that the police force that is on campus needs both that ability and that equipment—I don’t see it,” she says.

President Obama has asked Congress to review the 1033 program, a move that is welcomed by David Perry, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

“These items have unquestionably improved the safety of our campus police departments’ personnel and ultimately enhanced their ability to protect our college and university communities. IACLEA is committed to working with the White House and any federal agency tasked with this important review,” Perry said in a statement. “I am confident upon a detailed review, it will become clear that our campus police departments are using the equipment … in a responsible manner with the goal of better serving and protecting the people we serve on campus and enhancing the safety of our officers.”