UC Berkeley, city police decide not to seek armored vehicle

Scott Lowe/Courtesy

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The Berkeley, Albany and UC Berkeley police departments announced in a statement Thursday morning that they will no longer seek to procure an armored vehicle they had previously planned to acquire through a federal grant.

News of the departments’ plans to use a federal grant to purchase a Lenco BearCat vehicle, which police said would be used to protect officers and civilians in rescue situations involving hostages or active shooters, raised concerns among local residents and the campus community over whether the vehicle would also be used as an intimidation tactic to suppress protests.

“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,” the statement reads.

Although the three departments planned to share the vehicle, UCPD had taken the lead in the effort to procure the federal grant to afford the vehicle and would have maintained custody of the vehicle when it was not in use.

At the June 26 Berkeley City Council meeting, several council members and dozens of community members said they did not wish to see such a vehicle in Berkeley. The council voted to request more information about the vehicle from the city manager.

On Tuesday, Albany City Councilmember Robert Lieber said that Albany police had decided to back out of the agreement with Berkeley police and UCPD because they deemed the vehicle “inappropriate for the uses for their police department in a civilian setting.”

Thursday’s statement — which came from UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Albany Mayor Farid Javendel — said that upon further review, campus administrators had decided such a vehicle would not be “the best choice for a university-setting.” Campus officials are currently in the process of canceling the order for the vehicle, according to the statement.

“I am delighted to see that all three jurisdictions agree that we do not need or want an armored vehicle,” said Bates in a statement Thursday.”We are concerned about the safety of our citizens and our police officers, but this approach is not in alignment with our values and we don’t believe it is needed.”

Adelyn Baxter is the news editor.