Use defense discount for good

By participating in the U.S. Department of Defense’s 1033 program, the University of Minnesota Police Department has acquired six M16 and two M14 assault rifles since 1998.

The 1033 program allows the DOD to transfer surplus military equipment to regional law enforcement departments, including campus police programs. Law enforcement agencies enjoy massive discounts on supplies, and college police departments in particular receive equipment free of charge, paying only the necessary shipping and maintenance fees. To date, at least 117 colleges nationwide have participated in the 1033 program.

The program’s proponents argue that 1033 grants underfunded agencies the ability to procure equipment that they otherwise could not afford. Its opponents, however, worry about the militarization of campus police departments — some universities have acquired grenade launchers, fully automatic rifles and mine-resistant vehicles.

Locally, the suppression of last April’s Dinkytown riots prompted local police to use tear gas and riot gear against students. In Ferguson, Mo., even harsher force was employed.

Since the Ferguson controversy, President Barack Obama and numerous senators have requested a review of the 1033 program. We feel that now is the time for the University to increase transparency regarding the UMPD’s arsenal and its participation in the 1033 program.

Ultimately, we believe the UMPD has no business acquiring assault weapons. Instead, we encourage the University to follow the example of certain other colleges and use the 1033 program to acquire nonlethal equipment such as laptops, inkjet printers and first aid kits.