OPINION: Saddleback College has militarized our campus


U.S. soldiers head out for a mission aboard Caiman mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and an M1117 Guardian armored security vehicle, background, at Camp Adder, Iraq, Oct. 31, 2009. (Photograph/Anita VanderMolen, U.S. Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

When one opts to purchase a new vehicle the intention is to drive in style. When a hunter is looking for a new gun the intention is to execute his prey with an optimal weapon.

What are the intentions of Saddleback College and 40 other colleges in California in receiving Mine-Resistant Ambush Protectant vehicles (MRAP)?  The purpose of these military vehicles is to withstand improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and to detonate land mines.  

Saddleback  is a community college in South Orange County with very little crime and no occurrences of murder, manslaughter, hate crimes, terrorist acts, and bomb threats according to the 2012 annual security report.

Campus police chief Christopher Wilkinson explained the college’s reason for obtaining the MRAP in an article by OC Weekly’s Gabriel San Roman.

“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,” Wilkinson said.

There is a lack of transparency in the motives behind acquiring this war machine. The Defense Logistics Agency issued the 1033 Program which provides excess military weapons to state agencies, such as our campus police enforcement.

“In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991, Congress authorized the transfer of excess DOD personal property to federal and state agencies for use in counter-drug activities.  Congress later passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997; this act allows all law enforcement agencies to acquire property for bona fide law enforcement purposes that assist in their arrest and apprehension mission. Preference is given to counter-drug and counter-terrorism requests, ” the Defense Logistics Agency answered in regards to when and why the program was created.

Our campus crime log shows 10 marijuana related crimes. Do our campus police have ulterior motives in busting students for “counter-drug” instances in order to gain precedence for 1033 support?

There is a disconnect in why an MRAP vehicle would alleviate these hypothetical natural disasters and emergency response situations. There are civilian versions of an MRAP that would be just as compatible for emergency response situations.

The Lenco Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck, or Bearcat, is a similar armored vehicle that would be more suitable for our campus. However, there are more than just shipping and handling fees to be paid. The Bearcat costs $350,000, where as a MRAP is free once shipping and handling fees are paid.

The MRAP is undoubtably a more sophisticated and impressive vehicle for our police to parade around with. However, is the objective behind having this vehicle to serve our ego or our wallets?

Since 2007, the Pentagon has purchased 25,000 MRAP’s. Apparently, they overbought and elected to militarize local police departments and schools. The temperament of law enforcement and students has already become an us versus them situation. Adding this weaponry to the atmosphere  has only brought upon more tension. The alleged “emergency response” vehicle is misplaced and unfit for Saddleback College’s environment.