Fright in shining armor

CAMPUS ISSUES: UCPD is seeking funding for an armored vehicle. We consider this to be an unnecessary tool that sends the wrong message.

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UC Berkeley: home of the Free Speech Movement, the Campanile, elite academics and athletics — and an armored vehicle?

The Berkeley Police Department, Albany Police Department and UCPD recently combined forces to acquire funding for an armored vehicle — a bad idea with potentially detrimental effects.

The thought of having an armored vehicle on campus is disturbing. And even if the vehicle is not visible on campus, we would still know the police department is in possession of one — and that sends the wrong message.

The armored vehicle will be used for “active shooters, barricaded subjects and rescuing individuals,” according to the Berkeley Police Department. Yet Berkeley and Albany are not exactly a hotbed for hostage situations. Yes, there is something to be said for being safe not sorry, but that does not mean an armored vehicle is the solution.

We cannot point to any recent events in Berkeley that would have been solved more effectively and properly with an armored vehicle. Rather, we imagine that the vehicle could serve as a tool for intimidation in protest and demonstration situations. We are not sure it would even necessarily deter problems.

The statement the vehicle sends is just too strong, the power too alarming. The idea of having an armored vehicle around has elicited — and would continue to elicit — backlash from residents. If used at protests, the armored vehicle could very well provoke more violence than it is attempting to thwart.

There was huge outcry when police hit protesters with batons during the Occupy Cal demonstration on Nov. 9. Imagine if UCPD had used an armored vehicle — or if one was at least present on the scene. There has already been a loss of trust between the police and many members of the campus community. An armored vehicle in the hands of the police would do nothing to bridge that gap.

It is also a waste of money and resources. The police departments are seeking federal grants, which would be at no direct cost to taxpayers. Yet that is still a squandering the federal government’s money, especially when the UC system is in its worst economic shape ever. At the very least, the departments would do better to pursue grants for more relevant and salient programs instead.

At the Berkeley City Council meeting last Tuesday, residents of the city were more vocal and present than students, most of whom are away from campus. Yet this should be a bigger deal on campus than in the city. Therefore it seems like more than a coincidence that this issue is only being brought up now. That this process is happening over the summer is unfair to students.

The armored vehicle would probably serve as non-lethal enforcement, a glorified cop toy. But the symbol is visible, the image too scary. The implication of something going wrong is still there.