“Why would we want to militarize our police force?” Berkeley police won’t get an armored vehicleFriday, July 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm by Nick Sibilla
On Thursday, officials from the Berkeley, Albany, and the University of California police departments announced that they are no longer seeking an armored vehicle. Also known as a BearCat, the vehicle would have been paid for by a $200,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). But once the plan to procure this armored personnel carrier (APC) was made public, the decision sparked a public backlash. As I noted last week, there were also grave concerns about police militarization and a lack of accountability for law enforcement. A petition to stop the APC earned over 900 signatures on change.org.
In an interview, George Lippman from the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley (which is advised by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee) praised “community pressure” for cancelling the BearCat. Lippman called for the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) to end its relationship with UASI. He continued:
The Coalition is campaigning to bring Berkeley’s policing in line with its human rights values. Cancellation of the police request for the armored vehicle is an important win for our campaign.We also urgently call for a re-evaluation of the department’s relationship with the UC police. UC cops violently cracked down on peaceful Occupy Cal protesters last fall. That is not the kind of agency that should have prime responsibility for an armored personnel carrier!
For his part, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates insisted the city reject police militarization:
When we found out about this grant application we sort of went ballistic. I mean, why do we need this here in Berkeley, and why would we want to militarize our police force?
Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, university spokeswoman Janet Gilmore, noted ”In a university setting, it’s not really appropriate” for police to operate an APC. While this is a huge victory, activists are already looking to future organizing. Lippman urged greater citizen engagement:
Now, how about an investigation into how these proposals get cooked up without notification of the public or even the City Council? And, a campaign to ensure civilian control of the police?
To get more involved in your local community, take action with a grassroots organizing toolkit from the BORDC.