UTPD: Bang! Bang! Shoot 'Em Up!
By Leah Caldwell and Forrest Wilder
May 2003; page 10; Number 1.
Quietly, with little fanfare, UTPD has acquired a veritable arsenal of weapons routinely deployed by the U.S. military. UTPD's stockpile of polymer and steel is growing as our resident peacekeeping officers feel the pressure of homeland security. While there are the traditional Glocks and batons, other not-so-recognizable additions have been made to the ever-growing cache – bulky weapons such as the AR-15 and the Remington 870 (see picture and info).
Americans are accustomed to seeing these guns on soldiers in the battlefield or slung over the shoulders of federales in 'police states' like Mexico, not in use by domestic cops.
An open records request by UT Watch shows that on April 11, 2002, the UTPD purchased 10 of each of the following: AR-15s, holographic sights for the AR- 15, Remington Model 870 shotguns, shotgun racks and travel vaults - for a grand total of $16,697.
Look at the campus blotter: UTPD rarely deals with serious crimes. If you look back in the records to find a case when UTPD needed the big guns, you'll be bumping against the Whitman shootings in 1966. Unbeknownst to the public, UTPD officers are carrying these weapons in the trunks of their patrol cars. They are only to be brought out on special occasions, one hopes. The UTPD is surely aware that it would unnerve students to see officers with loaded semiautomatics standing guard on the West Mall. Americans may be comfortable with soldiers in airports, but it seems unlikely that we are prepared for blatantly militarized universities.
Why does a campus police force that spends most of its time rooting out the homeless rather than fighting terrorists need to spend thousands of dollars on this type of weaponry during a "budget crisis?" The tacit justification – like everything after Sept. 11 – has been the need to fight terrorism. Police forces around the country are jumping into the security bonanza.
UTPD Chief Jeffrey Van Slyke claims that the changes are simply part of an attempt to "upgrade" weaponry and that instead of relying on the APD for outside help, the UTPD will be able to hold its own against any predators. Van Slyke says that in the Whitman days, the UTPD didn't have guns and was forced to rely on the APD to take out Whitman. Specifically, the AR-15s are needed "to have officers prepared to enter and exterminate the threat," said Van Slyke. The threat – whatever that is – may or may not materialize, but the guns are here to stay. Meanwhile, the questions about our civil liberties will remain unanswered. The discussion about both the legitimacy and necessity of a militarized campus police force will remain forthcoming.
Want more information?
What is an AR-15?
The Bushmaster AR-15 type carbine, the civilian version of the M-16, is the department-issued patrol rifle. The AR-15 was originally designed in the 1960s to replace the M-14 as the new battle rifle. It was later redesigned to allow soldiers to carry more ammunition. It gained attention with its usage and failures in Vietnam. The UTPD manual vaguely outlines that the AR-15 may be deployed "at the discretion of the officer in any situation where drawing the handgun or deploying a shotgun in the anticipation of using deadly force would be appropriate."
What is a Remington 870?
The department-issued shotgun is the Remington Model 870. Shotguns "are assigned to most marked police units and to individual officers as needed," according to the UTPD manual. The shotgun is capable of being loaded with eight shotgun shells and fires over a 25-30 yard range. The nature of a shotgun would better enable an officer with poor aim to shoot multiple suspects since the shotgun scatters when fired, meaning that instead of firing in a straight line the weapon's patter covers 12-15 inches.
What is a Glock 23?
The Glock Model 23 is the .40 caliber department issued handgun. This gun is easily concealed and easy to maneuver due to its light weight. Essentially, this gun is idiot-proof since there are no external safeties. Yet, as a result of the reduced amount of trigger pressure necessary to fire the weapon, the Glocks are more prone to accidental and negligent discharge. There are some gun stores that even market "Glock-Safe Ammo," mocking the unreliability of the gun.
- - - Leah Caldwell
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| Caldwell, Leah and Wilder, Forrest. "UTPD: Bang! Bang! Shoot 'em Up!". May 2003. Issue. Vol. 1. No. 1. Page 10.