University, Berkeley, Albany reject armored vehicle

Three local police agencies had planned to purchase a Lenco BearCat G3 with a UASI grant. Photo: Lenco

The planned joint acquisition of an armored vehicle by the University of California Police Department, Berkeley Police Department and Albany Police Department has been cancelled. A statement from UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau today said, “Campus administrators evaluated the proposal and concluded that such a military-style vehicle is not the best choice for a university setting. UC Berkeley officials are in the process of canceling the order for the vehicle.”

According to a university spokesperson, senior administrators at the university became aware of the purchase “approximately two weeks ago” in an internal review process. Senior officials consulted with UCPD on the matter before the decision to cancel was made. The cancellation statement was also signed by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Albany Mayor Farid Javandel. 

The Lenco Bearcat armored vehicle was to be funded by a grant from the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) program of the Department of Homeland Security. At the June 26 City Council meeting, the acquisition was strongly criticized by a number of councilmembers. “It’s inconsistent with our culture and our values,” said Councilmember Linda Maio at the meeting.

The UASI grant would have covered the $169,000 price of the Lenco Bearcat armored vehicle. Berkeley Copwatch revealed the details of the grant application in mid-May, sparking a number of protests and public comment at several city council meetings.

In response to public comment about the armored vehicle, Berkeley police issued a statement on June 19 declaring: “The rescue vehicle has limited use in policing. It is primarily used by SWAT teams (in the case of BPD BSHNT) for responses to critical incidents such as active shooters, hostage situations, barricaded subjects, terrorism events, situations in which individuals are armed and/or victims have been wounded. There are agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area that have such tools that are used on a very limited basis.”

“Nobody wanted it except for the police departments,” Mayor Bates told Berkeleyside today. “Had the departments vetted it, I don’t think they would have had support to go through with the grant.”

“It’s highly unlikely it will be needed very often if at all,” Bates said. He added that if a need for such a vehicle does occur, Berkeley could call on Oakland or San Francisco agencies that already have it.

City council approves pools measure, debates streets [06.27.12]

To get breaking Berkeley news from Berkeleyside follow us on Twitter and on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel to ensure you see our latest videos.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • shoshannah

    What’s really amazing is that if Berkeley Copwatch hadn’t notified the City Council and the public, all three police departments would now be happily planning how to use their expensive, intimidating vehicle.

  • The Sharkey

    That makes this the first time Berkeley Copwatch has ever done something positive for the community.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    someday we will need this thing and all the folks that have been complaining will really have something to complain about!

  • Marhoades

    Incredible. Is the UASI a federally funded program that allows the military industrial complex to place its war machines in our cities? Wow. Cheney (or what is left of him as a bot) must be so proud. I am just trying to think how it might have helped Peter Cukor, Kenneth Warren and the others.

  • peter_rabbit_the_original

    The power of transparency and activism!  It works, in government, business and politics! 
    In Berkeley, city and university, the system works. Brave and beautiful.

    But what about our tax dollars. Why is the Fed Government giving grants for equipment that is not necessary nor appropriate for civilian police forces? Why the subsidizing of corporate sales? How much money have they wasted on these grants? Why do the grants exist at all? etc… space for more transparency, but we need investigative journalism or, if there is no such thing anymore, than independent activism must be it.

  • peter_rabbit_the_original

    There are plenty of other needs, and scarce resources to address them, you know? Also, the article states the BPD and UCBPD can use the Oakland and San Francisco’s “thing”.  So why the fear and greed my friend? Setting of priorities requires awareness and balance.

  • Alan_Tobey

    Just wouldn’t have fit into the How Berkeley Can You Be? parade — always a good test.

  • One of the publicized uses was for the Solano Stroll. I assume to show off, like a fire truck, rather than to pacify the crowds.

  • Iceland_1622

    Still no “Over the Ear” or “In Car Video” for all Berkeley police cars and it’s officers at this time in the year 2012 and yet they were all hot and excited about this thing?  

  • Vladislav_Davidzon

    I have to say that this article made really proud of our city.   It’s truly inspiring to see that people here really do have clear moral values and a different vision, even as much as we may have overwhelming challenges still. 

  • Iceland_1622

    Bearcat Manufacturer Pulls Video in Midst of Public Concern

  • Berkeley citizen

    It seems hypocritical to say we can use Oakland’s but we can’t actually possess one ourselves because it doesn’t mesh with our values . . . . very Berkeley to hate the police until we actually need them.  

  • JeffR79

    My research on this contentious issue was eye opening. This is a machine with uses under extreme circumstances. High powered guns go through the officers’ vests not to mention all the parts of their bodies that are not covered. The guns have gotten bigger and scarier. Quite likely we would not see this vehicle unless something really bad happened and we would be grateful that they rescued our family members were shot and lying on the ground. We should not be naive to think serious crime does not happen here and that people do not shoot at eachother, the police and those that may be unstable will not erode here and there. I do not like the look of it, but if we need it and it is parked somewhere to have on hand… Also, we borrow canines and helicopters. What is the difference, we will borrow it, are you for it, Mayor Bates, Linda Maio or not? Do you want nlood on your hands when those days come? Do some research before you jump do quickly.

  • JeffR79

    “…our family members who are shot.”

  • PragmaticProgressive

    This was an easy call. Saying no to other interest groups is proving much, much more difficult.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Yup, it’s hypocritical.

  • Completely Serious

    Can you get the contract under FOIA and see how much the cancellation penalty is?

  • SteveLindsey60

    Perhaps you are the first time a city has rejected one and reject the wishes of the federal government

    Pretty courageous on your part.  My hometown, after two difficult votes and weeks of heated debate, decided to accept it.  Some felt it didn’t mesh with our values.  But the majority on city council felt it might be needed, like when the infamous Carl Drega went on his rampage in Colebrook, NH, murdering two state troopers, a judge and a newspaper editor.  A very difficult decision to make.

    Hon. Steven W Lindsey
    state rep
    Keene, NH

  • BerkeleyCommonSense

     Yes, It’s always better to rely on others.  I hope it has a warp drive, so when Berkeley needs it to prevent loss of life the SFPD can get it here in under 30 minutes.

  • Ed S.

    What? You don’t think it is best to set law enforcement policy by uninformed, smug reactionary (from the left) dogma? 

  • BerkeleyCommonSense

    This inanimate object goes against “our” values.  The animate “active shooter” that it would be used to stop is just exercising his/her freedom of expression.  Personally, I hate hammers, I find them to be tools for destruction.  I’ve been told that they can also be used to build things, but I focus on their skull crushing capabilities and denounce them.

  • Vladislav_Davidzon


    The City already has access to such tools through other local partners.  How exactly does it make sense to spent the money in that case?  Financially, it is an irresponsible decision.  Morally, again – we have access to these tools if they are needed, and it is very clear that the values of our city oppose the militarization of our police force.

    Bottom line?  The police have access to the tools they need already.

  • Vladislav_Davidzon

    Actually not exactly.  The principle is that we do not want to have a police force that looks more like it belongs in Baghdad than Berkeley.  It’s also not such a radical idea to suggest that a well-funded police force with fewer toys like this is more likely to look at using other tactics, such as negotiation to resolve conflicts.

    I disagree with many things our city government does, but I am sincerely proud of the huge differences in how the Berkeley police operate compared to other places in this country.  Keep in mind too that the police force already has access to this kind of tool from other nearby cities — so why the heck does it make sense to waste our tax dollars on something we don’t actually need and actually already have? 

  • Ed S.

    While someone is holding hostages or shooting up the street, do we know how long it would take to get that vehicle over from SF or Oakland? 

  • The Sharkey

    Copwatch probably would have tried to block the purchase of those kinds of video units, the same way they blocked adding K9 units to the BPD.

  • The Sharkey

    When has a situation like that ever happened in Berkeley?
    When there ever been a situation in Berkeley in which an armored assault vehicle like this would be appropriate?

  • Ed S.

    Henry’s Publick House in 1990; that was a hostage taking situation. I’ll defer to those with tactical expertise if that would have been helpful in that scenario.  I just remember watching on the news of hostages running out of the bar without any type of cover. 

  • Vladislav_Davidzon

    Sure, and wouldn’t it be more logical to spend this money on providing social services that are well-known to lower the crime rates to begin with?  

  • Ed S.

    Of course, I’d like to have money for both.  And it seems the money would be granted from the Feds (who, I agree, should be spending more to transfer down to local communities for mental health services).  But, in case the mental health interventions didn’t catch the guy who decides to take hostages, as happened at Henry’s, I’d like the truck. 

  • The Sharkey

    How would an armored assault vehicle have helped in that situation?

    Do you think they could have… what… driven the truck through multiple walls into the interior of the building to stop the gunman without endangering the dozens of hostages in his immediate vicinity?

  • Ed S.

    Like I said prior, I recall seeing a lot of hostages running out of the building without any cover that the truck . . . maybe . . . could have provided.  I have no expertise in whether or how the vehicle would have been useful there.  I was giving an example of where a hostage standoff situation, with a gunman, happened in Berkeley.  But, I bet you dollars to donuts that someone with expertise could give reasons as to how the vehicle could have been used there. Or, in future scenarios were there to be a hostage situation with a gunman . . . as has happened in Berkeley.

  • The Sharkey

    Even in a best-case scenario, it looks like we’re talking about something that might be useful every 20 years or so.

    It just seems like a waste of money when there are so many other, more pressing needs.

  • Greg

    The $169K price tag seemed low.  A quick search revealed it was:  The base price for a Bearcat is ~$188K for government agencies (~$197K commercial).

    The UASI grant was to buy a used 2009 model (lease return) vehicle.  The initial grant request was for a new vehicle at ~$228K: 

    Incidentally, Keene, NH got a $250K grant to buy a generously equipped new vehicle.

    Granted, this was free federal money, but the maintenance costs (as described in articles about the vehicle in NH) seem excessive for something trotted out as a prop for photos with kids once a year at the Solano Stroll.

    If the BPD mandated that all reports on incidents involving this vehicle were to begin with the line “Ridin’ in a Lenco Bearcat, Jim” I believe it would ameliorate any concerns about “values” or “image”.  It would be a no-brainer, actually.

  • Ed S.

    I can certainly respect the argument that it might not be the so high on the priority list as compared to what the cops may need on a day to day basis (although it is being funded by the feds and, if the unthinkable happens, it may move up the priority list in hindsight).  Its the uninformed “it looks scary” argument from others that frustrates me. 

  • Vladislav_Davidzon

    But that is the fundamental problem.  We’re spending tons of money on literally armor (and bombs) while neglecting the root causes.  The problem is in the process we’re also making the problem worse. 

    Again, my question comes back to – if the police are given a lot of funding and limited on their weaponry, will that result in more peaceful conclusions to tough situations?  It certainly seems so.

  • Ed S.

    BTW, I’m not discounting your points on this.  I think you and Sharkey are raising good one. 

  • JeffR79

    Good points raised. We keep talking about borrowing one but we do not know if SF’s or Oakland’s or the many other departments in the bay area will have it available or the employees trained to operate it. Their cities will always be their first priority. We can’t keep relying on things like dogs, helicopters and this vehicle because there will be that time that none will be available. Also I have read that these are used for getting negotiators closer to an armed person. Our SWAT team does negotiate for a long time. There have been many tense armed situations over the last 25 years I have lived here. Shootings at officers, shootings at community and warrants for heavily armed people. We are not immune. Park it out of sight and rescue my loved ones who are shot when the bad guys are still shooting and there is no other way to get to them, please.

  • Iceland_1622

    This is just the start of something much larger in America i.e. the militarization of it’s police departments complete with those cheap dime store $1.99 Robo-cop sun glasses worn even at night by some Berkeley police officers in an attempt to make themselves look and appear more tough and mean and anonymous as well as machine-like, intimidating and somehow magically superhuman.  Even the women officers were into this and they all look silly, infantile, paranoid, and flat out trashy and cheap. In NYC many where discovered to even be using steroids to bulk up along with meth.  Prepare for this and much worse and as always just ‘follow the money’ trail in all of this for answers as to whom this all profits $$$$. 30,000 Drones Over America – Weaponized Police State

  • MarinAveUser

    The issue that folks seem to be overlooking is that these “tools” are being increasingly deployed by the Pentagon to local police departments across the country, and with returning vets joining these departments, it is no wonder that they will choose instruments that they have learned to use in a WAR scenario. Let’s be clear, these are tools that have proven their effectiveness in how to deal with events in a WAR scenario, NOT a peacetime scenario with CIVILIAN population.

    The argument that “I’d rather have in and not need need it,” rather than the other way around plays into our basic fear of never having “enough” protection. If that were the case, I’d wear Oxygen tanks everytime I take BART into SF from Berkeley…

    Pooling resources from nearby cities for the rare ocassion when this equipment might be used, seems to be the right way to go. Anything else is a waste of money, federal, state, or local.

    Finally, I find it disturbing that there seems to have been an eagerness on the part of some of the local “constabulary” to obtain a new (war-time) toy, until somebody spilled the beans.  I would have boycotted any parade, Solano or Shattuck if this monstrosity were to have been “featured”…   

  • BerkeleyCommonSense

    It would be used any time Berkeley needed to deliver police officers or paramedics into a dangerous situation. Without an armored vehicle emergency responders are forced to let the wounded bleed until the threat is confirmed to be neutralized. It hasn’t happened here? Wrong and irrelevant.

  • Vladislav_Davidzon

    Jeff, the thing is that many people in this town believe in projection of soft power.  That is actually looking at and addressing the underlying causes, and using negotiation tactics rather than blunt force. 

    If we give our police department reasonable levels of funding while at the same time refusing to give them military-grade weapons (such as this truck), what we’re going to see is development of soft power tactics.  That’s the whole point.  I certainly do not want to live in a town with the US military stationed here for “my protection”.  Thanks but no thanks.  That’s a really dumb way of dealing with crime – and in a town as smart as Berkeley, we can certainly find better ways and patterns of addressing these challenges.

  • HBP

    Its about saving lives people. Remember its not just for the police officers, it can be used to shield them to go in and rescue a BERKELEY CITIZEN that has been injured. Another chance for the city to get a tool that could be used to save lives in the very short minutes someone has have after they have been shot and laying for dead on the sidewalk. Yes shootings and murder does happen in Berkeley. It will never stop no matter what program you try to put together. The only time you would have seen that vehicle is on TV when it was being used during an extreme and dangerous situation which do happen in Berkeley. Stop whining about the PD and how intimidating they could be with ONE vehicle that could be used to save lives and let them do their job. Let them get DOGS too. 

  • peter_rabbit_the_original

    For the purchase price, not mentioning maintenance, insurance, personnel and other costs not mentioned herein, and the questionable need, it should indeed have “warp drive”! But of course it doesn’t.

    Oakland and SF are not the “other” nor that far but in a mind gripped by fear.

    I bet more lives will be “saved” by better spending the money.

    Stop militarizing the police; it induces an irresponsible, childlike state of mind in citizens that upends our needs and priorities; not to say anything of the limited capability of said vehicle, which could not even maneuver in many a street of Berkeley without risking running over someone — guess you’d call it “collateral damage” as the all war and military mind frame implies.

  • The Sharkey

    Correct, and totally relevant. Call me callous if you want to, but outlaying huge amounts of money (purchase, training, and maintenance) and arming our local Police with paramilitary assault vehicles for a potential once-in-a-lifetime occurrence seems like a complete waste when we can’t even catch snatch-and-grab phone thieves because our PD doesn’t even have a K9 unit.