College Police Departments Getting Military Equipment

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 09:05 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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More than 100 college campus police forces across the country have surplus military equipment in their possession, everything from tanks to ammunition to military-grade weapons, as at least one politician seeks to end the federal program that allows the college police to have the items, Politico reports.

The federal Defense Logistics Agency's Law Enforcement Support Office program is cause for concern by at least one politician, according to Politico.

Since the early 1990s, the Defense Department has allowed local law enforcement agencies — including college police — to apply to the program to receive surplus military equipment at a deeply discounted price or for free.

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The equipment ranges from cold weather overalls to office furniture. Central Washington University got a minivan and a generator, according the school spokeswoman.

Florida State University was able to secure a $200,000 Humvee for $1,500 (courtesy of the Defense Department discount) which the school used after a severe campus flood, said David Perry, FSU police chief and president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

Ohio State has a Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle, and Florida International University was the beneficiary of military-grade rifles.

Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, says local police departments are becoming too much like the military, and he wants to end the surplus program.

"Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s," Johnson wrote earlier this month in a letter to fellow lawmakers in which he outlined the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act. "Unfortunately, due to a Department of Defense (DOD) Program that transfers surplus DOD equipment to state and local law enforcement, our local police are quickly beginning to resemble paramilitary forces."

Johnson had been working on the bill long before the violence and unrest broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, following the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of a black teen by a white police officer. Protesters filled the streets, and news reports and video showed armored police vehicles in the streets and police firing rubber bullets while also employing tear gas in attempts to control the melee.

"The congressman feels like what's happening in Ferguson is relevant to the bill and it highlights the need for the bill, but we're not all of a sudden filing this because of what's happening in Ferguson," Johnson's spokesman told The Washington Times.

Perry told Politico that the majority of the equipment received by campus police is "small items that help with day-to-day operations at campus departments often strapped for cash."

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