College campuses have been militarizing thanks to the Department of Defense 1033 program, with over 100 institutions stocking up on equipment.
Some schools acquired mundane tools that can be used for daily tasks, including first aid kits, overalls and metal detectors.
That is not the case at Florida International University.
The FIU Police Department received 50 M16 rifles and a Mine-Resistant Armored Protected vehicle from the Law Enforcement Support Office Program.
The United States military pays approximately $730,000 for MRAPs. The University paid $2500 for the MRAP and $2000 for 50 M16 rifles—what a bargain!
University Police Chief Alexander Casas told Student Media back in fall 2013, when they were still on a waitlist to receive the vehicle, the department would only use the vehicle in case of natural disasters and active shooters.
The program has been around for years, and the University is only one of many that have stocked up on rifles and military vehicles over the years. So why do we care now?
Recent incidents, like the one in Ferguson Missouri, have the public wondering why these military machines are available to law enforcement.
Casas cited tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting, and it makes sense for some schools to prepare themselves with a plan or equipment to prevent incidents like this from reoccurring. But members of the University have told Student Media that they feel relatively safe on campus.
The University hasn’t had life-threatening incidents like the high rate of sexual assaults at Florida State University and the University of Florida. Although nothing major has happened yet, we agree that campus law enforcement should be prepared, but how would military weapons improve safety?
While 50 rifles and an armored vehicle may seem extreme, other Florida universities like UF have armored vehicles, while others have acquired more dangerous weaponry. The University of Central Florida, for example, has a grenade launcher.
There are unarmored humvees that could help with natural disasters, and if there is an active shooter, would the over 10-foot-tall and approximately 50,000 pound vehicle be nimble enough to get right to the front door of a building?
Whether necessary or not, FIU, and all schools for that matter, need to reevaluate if bringing military-grade equipment to campuses will do more good than harm to students on campus.
M16s and grenade launchers have their roots as tools of war. Their functions are to inflict damage and repel oncoming enemy attack.
Grenade launchers can be used to launch tear gas. This makes us believe a state university like UCF is prepared to confront riots or violent protests.
The military equipment that national police forces have been obtaining over the past do not serve to build trust between civilians and officers. It does the opposite.
If police forces, including the University’s, are obtaining weapons and vehicles commonly used in conflicts we can’t help but ask, “Who are they preparing to wage war with?”