Albany police pull out of agreement to purchase armored vehicle with UCPD and BPD

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Rae Zhuang/Staff

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According to an Albany City Council member, the Albany Police Department has decided to back out of an agreement with Berkeley Police Department and UCPD to purchase an armored vehicle through a federal grant.

The $170,000 federal grant to purchase a Lenco BearCat will come from the Urban Areas Security Initiative, a Department of Homeland Security nonprofit organization that is intended to financially support agencies that are at high risk of a terrorist attack with “security enhancements.”

The BearCat is used by many military and law enforcement agencies. According to former Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, the Albany, Berkeley and UC Berkeley departments only intend to use the vehicle for “active shooters, barricaded subjects and rescuing individuals.”
But many city and campus community members have raised concerns over the vehicle being used in protest situations, citing the armored vehicle previously used by Oakland police to break up the May 1 Occupy Oakland protest.

According to Albany City Councilmember Robert Lieber, Albany police backed out of the agreement because they deemed the vehicle “inappropriate for the uses for their police department in a civilian setting.”

Albany police could not be reached for comment, and both UCPD and the Berkeley police said that it would not be appropriate for them to speculate or speak about another agency’s decision regarding the vehicle.

At the June 26 Berkeley City Council meeting, several council members raised concerns about the involvement of Berkeley police in purchasing the vehicle.

“I think we ought to turn this thing back in,” said Councilmember Max Anderson at the meeting. “If there are more useful items that Homeland Security wants to offer us … then we should take advantage of those, but not a vehicle with this kind of dual-use capability.”

Dozens of Berkeley residents also spoke against the vehicle during public comment.

“What the hell business does a university have in keeping a vehicle of this nature on its campus?” said David Collins at the meeting.

The council voted unanimously at the meeting to request additional information regarding the vehicle from the city manager.

UC Berkeley students have also raised concerns over purchasing the vehicle. Former two-term Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein started an online petition shortly after hearing about UCPD’s plans to partake in purchasing the vehicle.

According to Goldstein, not only is the use of a military-grade vehicle on a college campus inappropriate, but the lack of transparency by local police throughout the application process also raises additional concerns over UCPD protocol in cases of weaponry acquisition.

Goldstein’s petition currently has more than 600 signatures, and he said he also hopes to organize a meeting between students, campus administrators and police to discuss purchasing the vehicle publicly.

“My goal is to first make this follow a democratic process and get people to realize that this is happening in a problematic way,” Goldstein said.

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  • Fox V

    I thought Sgt Kusmiss left her BPD spoke position after her midnight visit to reporter Doug Oakley to persuade him to “correct” his story

  • ArwenUndomniel

    The University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley Police, University Police, University administration and Alameda County Sheriff among many other defendants were served with a $15 million lawsuit for “police brutality, unlawful arrest, retaliatory prosecution by 30 plaintiffs arising out of the Occupy protest on campus on November 9, 2012.

    On Wednesday, June 13, 2012 attorneys Ron Cruz and Monica Smith, served a $15 million federal lawsuit on behalf of 30 plaintiffs on UC-Berkeley administrators and police for police brutality, false arrest, retaliatory prosecution and civil rights violations of Occupy Cal protesters who participated in a demonstration on the campus on November 9, 2011. The lawsuit asks for redress and damages calling the University’s actions against the plaintiffs “..UCB’s political witch hunt against protesters.”

    The lawsuit names as defendants UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgenau, Executive Vice Chancellor, George Breslauer, Harry LeGrande, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Linda Williams, Associate Chancellor, John Wilton, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance, Claire Holmes, Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs and Communications, Mitchell Celaya, Chief of the University of California Police Department at Berkeley, Gregory Ahern, Chief of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, Howard Jordan, Chief of the Oakland Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Chavez, UC Berkeley Detective Rick Florendo, police officers Garcia, N. Hernandes, King, Lachler, Obichere and Roma and Does 1-100. The allegation of Does allows the attorneys to amend the complaint later to bring in more defendants as the case proceeds in federal court.

    Lead plaintiff and BAMN national organizer, Yvette Felarca, stated “We demand justice. Education is a right, and people fighting to defend it should not be met with brutality and a political witchhunt by UC-Berkeley or any other university administration,” She was the first person struck and the target of multiple baton blows in the YouTube video that went viral of November 9 police brutality.

    Felarca went on to say “We want this to set the precedent for every university administration that they will not attack our right to protest for public education. Through the course of this lawsuit, we will use every means at our disposal, including legal and direct action, to expose UC-Berkeley’s policy of political suppression and win justice”.

    The federal complaint was newly amended since it was originally filed with the U.S. District Court last November to add a demand of $7.5 million in compensatory damages for physical and emotional harm and denial of constitutional rights as well as $7.5 million in punitive damages.

    In March, 2012 the University and Alameda County District Attorney’s office charged Felarca and 11 other plaintiffs with misdemeanor charges and imposed illegitimate stay-away orders banning her and 12 other protesers from all UC property. All the stay-away orders were dismissed by the Alameda District Attorney’s office after attorney Ron Cruz filed a motion objecting to the orders. The vast majority of the criminal charges have been dismissed against all the people who were charged criminally.

    In a statement attorney Ron Cruz declared “The amended lawsuit now includes five more individuals who were arrested November 9, 2011 demanding redress for false arrest, bringing the total number of plaintiffs to thirty. Also, five of the plaintiffs who joined this lawsuit last November were subsequently prosecuted on bogus criminal charges by the University—a clear case of retaliatory prosecution for filing this lawsuit and being outspoken leaders in the movement.”

  • lololol

    the crucial difference between Albany PD and UCPD:
    the former might be held accountable to the mores of the populace of Albany (although not himself an elected official the chief might be fired by the city council if wrongdoing were to occur),
    whereas the latter enjoys near total immunity from popular accountability.

    For example, no one at UCPD has been punished for unjustified use of force (broken bones from baton strikes for the sole purpose of silencing political speech) against students on two occasions two years apart on the Berkeley campus.
    A single officer has resigned in the wake of the unlawful use of pepper spray against students at Davis – note that the UC-Davis administration and police force had to behave so badly as to reduce the institution to a national laughing stock before even a single officer suffered consequences.

    • ArwenUndomniel

      The University police led by Lt. Eric Tejada and Chief Celaya and a bunch of criminal bullies and cowards who like to go around the city intimidating, hitting and criminally assaulting young adults, the homeless and anyone they feel is helpless. They caused a young woman to break her back in a fall of 2011 in People’s Park and then went to the hospital where she was taken to harass her about her companions. The are criminals with badges, no conscience, no ethics, no morality and no boundaries as to their cruelty or their crimes. They should all be fired!

  • Guest

    Albany PD = wimps

    • lololol

      UCPD = fascistic militia