The debate over military equipment hand-me-downs to local police departments went before a U.S. Senate Committee hearing on Tuesday, weeks after clashes in Ferguson between protesters and cops seemingly ready to take on Terminators brought the issue to the forefront. Police Foundation President Jim Bueermann testified at the hearing that it gives law enforcement armored vehicles needed to protect police and civilian lives.
Maybe such an excuse is valid with an urban police force (maybe not), what about Saddleback College's campus police? With just nine full-time officers, the department somehow managed to get an army mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle for...what exactly? Scaring kids who don't put up their parking permit?
According to analysis of 2011-2014 Department of Defense data on the 1033 program, Saddleback College is one of thirteen police departments across the nation, and the only campus cops, to have an MRAP with less than 10 full-time officers.
A recent Saddleback College newsletter makes no secret of its MRAP--hell, there's even a picture of kids posing next to it! This April, auto shop students from Laguna Hills High School got to inspect the vehicle as part of an event co-sponsored by campus police.
But there's got to be more to the MRAP than just photo-ops and auto shop fun, right? It was designed to withstand the force of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used against the U.S. Army in the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The Caiman MRAP would be used by the Saddleback College Police Department for emergency response of man-made and natural disasters, first responder mutual aid (as part of the OC mutual aid and OC County Emergency Operations Plan), critical incident, hostage rescue, barricaded suspect and active shooter on campus incidents," campus police chief Christopher S.M. Wilkinson told the Weekly. "Saddleback College Police Department did not currently have this type of vehicle to perform the required functions to enhance officer safety and the safety of the students, staff and faculty until now."
The campus cops acquired the 2012 MRAP model this April at no cost through the federal 1033 program. The South Orange County Community College District (SOCCCD) approved the transfer.
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"I think the trustees let our cops get an MRAP when they found out that some of our students are Democrats," says Irvine Valley College (IVC) philosophy professor Roy Bauer. He also runs Dissent the Blog, which kept a close eye on the SOCCCD that IVC and Saddleback belong to, when police tried unsuccessfully to arm up from carrying .38 Specials to 9mm handguns.
Campus police chief Wilkinson prepared a 2012 annual security report for the college. Crime statistics for 2011-2012 show more forced sex offenses (one) than combined totals for murder, manslaughter, robbery, hate crimes, terrorist acts, and bombs (zero-point-zero).
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2