UC Halts Purchase of Armored Truck

Chancellor says vehicle 'not the best choice for a university setting;' police say campus shootings prove otherwise.

An armored vehicle paid for with homeland security funds for use by three police departments will be making a U-turn.

The eight-ton truck has no place on campus, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgenau said.

"Campus administrators evaluated the proposal and concluded that such a military-style vehicle is not the best choice for a university setting," Birgenau says in email message. "UC officials are in the process of canceling the order for the vehicle."

Had the tank rolled onto the campus as planned, Birgenau knew he could be looking at "endless demonstrations," Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said. 

"I was really happy he came to the decision he did," Bates said.

Berkeley, Albany and UC Berkeley police departments teamed up as the North County Tactical Working Group to apply for a $170,000 grant from the Urban Areas Security Initiative to pay for the Lenco BearCat, which was approved. Berkeley police would have had access to the truck, but the university would have retained ownership.

The purchase did not flout any city rules, but nonetheless drew the ire of residents and Berkeley City Council members, who said it represented a militarization of the police.

Proponents say mass murders at Oikos University and Virginia Tech show access to an armored truck is, sadly, all too appropriate on college campuses.

The concern is "understandable," Birgenau says in his message. A gunman killed 32 and wounded 17 at Virginia Tech in 2007. A rampage at Oakland's Oikos April 2 left seven dead and injured three. 

"Obviously, the police department thought it would be a great tool to have at our disposal in a situation where we need to rescue police officers or the public from gunfire," said UCPD spokesman Lt. Eric Tejada.

"It's unfortunate, but we need to plan for that contingency, just as you plan for an earthquake," he said. "You hope it never happens, but in society today you have to be prepared."

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan is on vacation and was not reachable for comment today. 

The council hammered police over the decision to place the truck on the campus.

"That is troubling to me given that last November the university was involved with the Alameda County Sheriff in beating protesters," Councilman Jesse Arreguin said. "I'm very concerned about the lack of safeguards to ensure people will not be negatively affected by this armored vehicle simply for exercising their First Amendment rights."

Tejada rejected the scenario.

"We never would have used it in a crowd control situation," he said. "That is not what a vehicle like this was made for.

Bates said that Oakland and San Francisco already have similar tanks, and that in the event of a crisis, "we could call upon our neighbors."


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Milan Moravec July 05, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Armored vehicle purchase another example of inept senior management at University of California Berkeley. Extreme disparities in higher education make it impossible to keep the promise of equality of opportunity. University access, affordability is farther and farther out of reach. UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau, Provost Breslauer leave an indelible mark on access and affordability. Self absorbed Chancellor and Provost are outspoken for public Cal. ‘charging Californians much higher’ tuition. Number 1 ranked Harvard is now less costly. Cal. tuition is rising faster than costs at other universities. The ‘charge Californians higher’ tuition makes Cal. the most expensive public university! Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) Breslauer ($306,000 salary) like to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving them every dollar expected. The ‘charge Californians more’ tuition skyrocketed fees by an average 14% per year from 2006 to 2011-12 academic years. If Birgeneau Breslauer had allowed fees to rise at the same rate of inflation over the past 10 years they would still be in reach of most middle income students. Chancellor Provost increased disparities in higher education defeat the promise of equality of opportunity. An unacceptable legacy for students, parents, politicians!
Bong Sativa July 06, 2012 at 01:39 AM
When criminals have armored vehicles like this it would be a more appropriate time to buy one.
Paul D July 06, 2012 at 01:18 PM
"Obviously, the police department thought it would be a great tool to have at our disposal in a situation where we need to rescue police officers or the public from gunfire," said UCPD spokesman Lt. Eric Tejada. "It's unfortunate, but we need to plan for that contingency, just as you plan for an earthquake," he said. "You hope it never happens, but in society today you have to be prepared." This crackpot Tejada needs to be farmed out to the Border Police fast before he uses his 'ideas' to justify flame-throwers against students.
Taximan Steve Lindsey July 06, 2012 at 05:46 PM
This appears to be the first community to reject the federal government's offer. My hometown accepted one, but only after two city council votes and heated community-wide debate. Those for the armored car in my home state point out to the Carl Drega rampage in which this man took out two state troopers, a judge and a newspaper editor. Those against the BearCat argue against what they see as the growing militarization of our civilian police forces, and hold the fear that it will be used as a form of social control. Both sides have valid points. Hon. Steven W Lindsey state rep Keene, NH
Che Joubert July 07, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I wouldn't be too quick to believe all the BS about shootings on campuses. Things like that can themselves be created or hyped up so as to create a more militaristic environment generally, including lots of sales of absurd vehicles such as this one. Berkeley is old school politics, with a whole lot more knowledge of history and manipulation of populations that most places. Armored vehicles, guns, military training and fear will emphatically not reduce violence in any way - but instead increase it drastically. There's nothing the powers that be would like more than to destroy sophisticated, successful pockets of sanity such as Berkeley, CA.
Che Joubert July 07, 2012 at 04:54 PM
I agree one needs to plan - but the planning should start WAY before one needs to 'rescue' police officers from gunfire. You do not 'plan' for an earthquake by buying guns to protect yourself, unless you have a pretty low I.Q. or some kind of paranoid disorder. Nor do you 'plan' for attacks by criminals by arming yourself and going out to look for trouble. You plan a peaceful society from the get-go, and that includes tuning out the unsophisticated, alarmist, useless advice you're promoting.
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