Like many other schools across the country, the University has participated in a federal government program to obtain reissued equipment from federal agencies over the last two years, but on a relatively limited basis.
Since 2012, the University has obtained a range of secondhand equipment from the federal government, including riflescopes, computer hardware and privacy scene barriers, according to documents obtained by The Michigan Daily through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The 1033 program, which began in 1997, aims to reuse “excess property” from military units — which can include air conditioners, clothing, computers, as well as weapons — by recycling it to local and state police departments, according to the Defense Logistics Agency. The DLA claims that $2.2 billion worth of property is distributed each year.
The University has obtained two riflescopes since 2012. Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the University’s Department of Public Safety and Security, said the University applied to obtain the riflescopes in an effort to evaluate whether it wished to make use of a similar type of scope on its existing rifles. However, she said the riflescopes that were obtained from the program were in such a state of disrepair they could not be evaluated.
The scopes would be used with long-gun rifles, which Brown said are standard-issue to University police officers. She said the rifles are law-enforcement grade, not military grade. A standard long gun is also issued to officers in addition to a sidearm.
The University has also received six “Scene Privacy Barriers” since 2012, which are used to tent over a victim on the ground during a crime scene, according to Brown.
In addition, two listings of “Computer Repair Equipment” appeared on the equipment inventory list, which Brown said were “small tools to work on computer hardware.”
The Washington Post reported in September that many police departments responsible for enforcement on public school districts — including the Los Angeles School Police Department, the San Diego Unified Schools and Florida’s Pinellas County Schools Police Department — received much more equipment than the University from the 1033 program, including several M16 rifles and utility vehicles.
Joy Rohde, an assistant professor of Public Policy, said in many cases, the acquisition of military-grade equipment could prove more hazardous to communities than helpful.
“We have seen in community after community that has this equipment — and Ferguson is a great example of this — that when police have this equipment, they tend to use it and it makes them look like an occupying force instead of a force trying to protect the peace,” Rohde said.
In recent months, police in Ferguson, Mo. have used military equipment, tear gas and other riot gear to control protests in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown, a Black teenager. Their use of force has drawn criticism from a number of groups in recent months, prompting Amnesty International to send a group of observers to the city to monitor police.
Brown said University police have not requested any equipment from other federal grant programs, and do not have any equipment beyond standard issue sidearms and long guns. Instead, he said the University can borrow tactical equipment from the county as needed, as well as coordinate with other agencies like the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad in situations necessitating higher security.
Universities across the country have tightened security responses in recent years following several instances of mass shootings on college campuses.
The Ann Arbor police said they do not have documents listing weapons or gear of military grade received from the federal government.