Photo by Diego Saldaña-Rojas
Raul Herrera/Staff Writer
How to respond to a disaster is what University police considers when raising arms, but national incidents have made others skeptical.
The FIU Police Department purchased 50 M16 rifles in the last couple of years and recently acquired a small Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle and a mobile command bus.
These new purchases are to better improve in campus safety in everything from an active shooter to disaster recovery, said University Police Chief Alex Casas.
Reports of the FIUPD’s purchases came after the deployment of similar armed vehicles by law enforcement in response to the civil unrest in Ferguson, Miss.
“I think the timing is less than ideal,” said Ediberto Román, professor at the University College of Law. “I believe there have been suggestions of proposed legislation in Congress to question the distribution of current and former military equipment to local police forces.”
The FIU Police Department obtained the MRAP and rifles through the Law Enforcement Support Office Program, which is part of the Department of Defense’s 1033 initiative that helps dispose of the surplus military equipment by giving it up to local law enforcement.
This initiative was developed through the National Defense Authorization Acts of 1990 and 1996 to better equip the police for the “war on drugs” and the “war on crime.”
Román said he wasn’t sure if the purchases were necessary for the University.
“I find it to be a fairly safe campus,” he said. “I would hope [funds] would have been used to insure an alert system for the isolated, individualized attack as opposed to almost an armed conflict type preparation.”
While the $2,000 mobile command bus would be as a mini-command center for operations where police can be closer to the action, like when they need to supervise football games, The $2,500 MRAP would only be used in extraordinary instances, such as hurricane relief, active shooter incidents, flooding or fire rescue incidents.
Jose Reyes, a freshman engineering major, thought that having an MRAP on campus in case of hurricanes or floods was a good idea.
“I think it’s good,” he said, “it’s for our safety and protection.”
With a growing student population of over 54,000, Román can understand the possibility of an incident and preparing for it, but thinks the University is going about it the wrong way.
Krystal Zheng, freshman communications major, said she was concerned with having these sort of weapons around.
The worst that could happen between students, she said, is a fight, and if there is ever a shooter on campus, the police can handle it without an MRAP.
“I think it’s too much”, she said. “It’s kind of scary.”
Zheng also wondered how the police department would keep the MRAP from falling into the wrong hands.
However, Casas said the MRAP won’t be used around campus when there is a high amount of students moving about, or exposed.
“We don’t patrol in the MRAP,” Casas said. “We have it tucked away—I hope I never have to use it.”
Casas said that University police officers are being trained to use the MRAP, and the semi-automatic M16s are all customized for each officer according to specifications of sights.
FIUPD also cooperates with outside law enforcement and, according to Casas, they do so quickly and more efficiently with the new equipment.
Despite the skepticism among the purchase of the M16 rifles and the MRAP, Casas said that the new equipment will better improve on-campus safety.
“I understand the perception, but I got to tell you, from the law enforcement perspective, we knew exactly what they were to be used for, we would never blur those two lines,” he said in reference to the boundary between police and military actions. “We’re not running around with those rifles strapped to our backs.”
This is absolutely disgusting. The big issues in Ferguson arose because of the militarization of the police force. No college police department needs this type of equipment if a regular police department doesn’t. Way to waste money and instantly alienate a whole new round of potential freshman by showing that the people meant to keep your campus safe are as out of touch and clueless as the incompetent police force making headlines. Bravo.
You know, you don’t just corral wild pigs. It takes time. First you throw out some corn and slowly they will come and start eating. Then one day you put up a section of straight fence. At first they are startled but slowly they ignore it because they like the corn. Then you put up another section and the same thing happens. Slowly, you complete your enclosure and one day the gate swings closed and the startled pigs are trapped.
The erosion of civil rights never happens in one fell swoop and once gone, they are rarely reinstated. The message is usually one of greater security and safety. But, remember a government must have the means to enforce its policies and procedures.
And here is where Godwin’s law would appear to come into play but in this case it is historical and not merely an escalation to the ridiculous. Few Germans were Nazis but one wonders how it came to be that entire segments of a populace could be corralled and herded. It did not happen overnight and occurred under the guise of greater security and a better State. And, the police played a major role in the herding and corralling.
Surely the US government could never take hostile action against its citizens. There are some from Kent State who might disagree. Twenty years ago if you had told the American populace of the Patriot Act, security cameras everywhere and the government monitoring your email, phone calls, etc. they would have told you that was crazy and could never happen in the US…
Perhaps I am off the mark but I am always leery of corn and new fences. But, hey, we’ll all be safer!
Ass grabber, you’re on notice.
“I understand the perception, but I got to tell you, from the law enforcement perspective, we knew exactly what they were to be used for, we would never blur those two lines”
Yes, because the police saying ” just trust us” has worked out so well for so many people recently. This is an affront to academia to have this sort if arsenal lurking around the corner from classrooms.
I have a lot of friends who go to FIU! If I wasn’t upset (don’t want to swear) now, I will be extremely if I hear ANY of them got hurt by this ridiculous amount of weaponry. This is NOT ideal for campus security, I don’t care what campus it is!
With all due respect but your nation is seriously fucked up