An armored vehicle isn’t protecting the UCPD against public outrage.
Critics of the University of California Police Department at Berkeley, Berkeley Police Department and Albany Police Department’s pact to seek government funding for a shared armored vehicle are wary that police forces are seeking to use the machine to stifle protests.
Critics’ fears may stem from previous reports of procedural inconsistencies and excessive forcefulness from the UCPD in the aftermath of its responses to on-campus Occupy protests.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a report written by the campus' independent Police Review Board “found that officers appeared to have strayed from campus policies and norms in their use of batons against protesters and called on the university to better explain when the use of force is appropriate.” Additionally, The Daily Californian reports that an armored vehicle was brought by officers to a UC Davis Occupy protest.
“[The armored vehicle] is not going to be used for protests or crowd control,” UCPD Public Information Officer and Administrative Lieutenant Eric Tejada told the Huffington Post in a phone interview. “It’s a regional asset, and it’s nothing to be feared. It is for the community’s benefit.”
“We do not want our police officers sent to other jurisdictions to suppress protected First Amendment activity or non-violent civil disobedience,” the Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists stated in a letter to members of the Berkeley Police Review Commission and Subcommittee on Mutual Aid Pacts, according to the Californian. “(R)ecent events, including various police agencies’ responses to Occupy demonstrations, show that there is a need for additional review of our mutual aid policy.”
UCPD's SWAT team has wanted an armored vehicle for “several years,” says Tejada. He said that for the three departments who would share it, the vehicle would be a way to “fill a gap in resources … that we can utilize in an officer or civilian rescue situation. Or when there is an active shooter or situation where firearms are being used.”
Tejada said that there has never been, during his years working on the force, an active shooter on UC Berkeley’s campus; however, in November 2011, an armed undergraduate student entered the campus, aimed a firearm at police officers, refused to lower his weapon in the computer lab and was shot by officers. He later died in a hospital from his injuries. Prior to that shooting, in which no one but the suspect was physically harmed, CBS News reported the last shooting on UC Berkeley’s campus was in the 1980s.
Officers on the SWAT team have had active shooter training since 2000, soon after the shooting tragedies at Columbine High School shook the nation, according to Tejada. The force has also created a guided presentation to educate students about active shooter procedures.
“My point is people do bring firearms onto campuses, it does happen,” he added. “You have to be prepared for these types of situation.” Currently, Tejada said UCPD’s SWAT team uses regular police vehicles in situations like high-risk warrant cases, which, Tejada said the armored car would be useful as these calls could evolve into more dangerous circumstances for officers and civilians.
According to Tejada, with funding from the organization, none of the three agencies, the university or the local governments would be responsible for the vehicle’s payments. City Council is set to discuss the vehicle on June 26, where the Californian reports members of the ACLU of Northern California and the city’s Peace and Justice Commission will also be speaking.
2005 - UCLA campus police tase student in a library -- protests and demonstrations follow
Students and others march across campus to protest outside the University of California, Los Angeles police department after a rally on the Westwood campus Friday, Nov. 17, 2006 to protest police use of a taser on UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad in a campus library Tuesday, Nov. 14.
2007 - UC Berkeley students occupy trees
Authorities negotiate with two tree-sitters at a tree on the campus of the University of California in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008. UC Berkeley officials are preparing to remove the last remaining tree-sitters protesting a planned sports center next to Memorial Stadium, where the football team plays. The university has refused to meet the protesters' demand that it donate $6 million to environmental and Native American groups as part of an agreement for the tree-sitters to come down voluntarily.
2009 - UCLA cops taser student protesters, protesting tuition hikes.
A student protester is tazered by a police officer during a protest against an increase in student fees at the UCLA campus in Los Angeles on Nov. 19, 2009. The University of California Board of Regents approved a 32 percent tuition increase during a meeting which at the campus today.
2009 - November incident at Wheeler hall, students clash with police outside of Wheeler while students barricaded themselves in the building.
Demonstrators protest in front of a closed off University of California, Berkeley building on the Berkeley, Calif., campus, Friday,. Nov. 20, 2009, during a demonstration against university fee hikes and layoffs.
2009-2010 - student protesters start using "Occupy Everything" tag
Students occupy the hallway outside the office of the university chancellor at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) to protest education funding cuts and rising tuition on March 4, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Thousands of students and educators from elementary, middle and high schools, and colleges and universities are holding marches, rallies and class walkouts across California today as part of a nationwide effort calling for no more cuts to education. University of California system student fees have increased 61 percent over the past five years and costs have gone up for students of California community colleges which, until the property tax rollback of 1978, provided tuition-free to all high school graduates.
March 2010 - at least one student tased when students "occupy" a portion of interstate 80/880
Oakland police officers take down a splinter group of protestors who attempted to block Interstate 880 following a rally for the national day of action against school funding cuts and tuition increases March 4, 2010 in Oakland, Calif. Dozens of protestors were arrested after they stormed the 880 freeway as students across the country were walking out of classes and holding demonstrations against massive tuition increases and funding cuts to college universities.
2011 - students beat with batons at UC Berkeley
2011 - UC Davis students pepper sprayed
In this image made from video, a police officer uses pepper spray as he walks down a line of Occupy demonstrators sitting on the ground at the University of California, Davis on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. The video - posted on YouTube - was shot Friday as police moved in on more than a dozen tents erected on campus and arrested 10 people, nine of them students.