University police departments across the country are getting military-issued equipment from the Pentagon’s controversial 1033 program, which has been hounded by criticism since Ferguson Police showcased their arsenal in response to protests last month.
Across the country, some 60 university campuses have received weapons and other equipment from the program, prompting protest from students who claim their campuses are being militarized.
Florida International University (FIU) of Miami is one of those schools. The department has received 50 M16 assault rifles, a mobile command center, and an MRAP (a mine resistant vehicle) on loan from the Pentagon. A recent editorial in the student newspaper lambasted the police’s equipment buildup for “causing unrest in [the] student body.”
Police Chief Alexander Casas says he knows taking weapons from the military sounds bad, but his department would be seeking the vehicles and guns regardless of whether or not they came from the Pentagon
“There’s a vernacular in our language that we didn’t have ten years ago. When I say Virginia Tech, Columbine, Sandy Hook…everybody knows what that means,” he told Fusion. “Those extraordinary incidents require an extraordinary response.”
He also said that the MRAP could be helpful in the event of a hurricane or other natural disasters, and likened the equipment to a fire alarm in a home.
“As a homeowner, you have to have a fire alarm in your home, but you hope to God that you never have to actually depend on it. It’s the same thing with us and this equipment,” he said.