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.
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