UTPD's New Arsenal
Quietly, with little fanfare, the UT police department 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, tasers, pepper spray, and batons, other not-so-recognizable additions have been made to the ever-growing cache. 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.
If you look back in the records to find a case when UT needed the big guns, you’ll be bumping against the 1966 Charles Whitman shootings. The Austin Police Department sent officers to the scene with accurate rifles, but they couldn't hit Whitman since he hid behind the balcony wall when they arrived. Two officers and an employee of the University Co-op tunneled their way through the catacombs beneath the South Mall into the Tower to end Whitman's life by shooting him from point blank range.
The assault rifles and shotguns the UTPD now totes around cannot prevent extreme incidents like Whitman's. However, unbeknownst to the public, UTPD officers carry them in the trunks of their patrol cars. The UTPD has thankfully never fired a gun on duty, and one hopes that these excessive weapons will only be carried on appropriate occasions. The Kent State incident in 1970 shows the consequences of threatening students with firearms.
Look at the campus blotter: the UTPD rarely deals with serious crimes. Why does a campus police force need to spend thousands of dollars on this type of useless weaponry, especially during a "budget crisis"? They purchased these weapons at the same time that the administration was pushing for the exorbitant infrastructure fee in Spring 2002. But 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. Specifically, the AR-15s are needed "to have officers prepared to enter and exterminate the threat," said Van Slyke. Until a threat materializes, the UT community must deal with this new wave of militarized campus "security".
-adapted from the issue one article "utpd: bang! bang! shoot 'em up!" by Leah Caldwell and Forrest Wilder.
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, and 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 sprays 12-15 inches instead of a linear shot.
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.