Universal Translator

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Thoughts Re: UC-Davis Part 2

Doesn’t it seem a bit weird to anybody else that the UC-Davis campus police appear to be so well-armed?  Seriously, in addition to the military grade pepper spray that was used on the students, these campus police are decked out like storm troopers.

The questions this observation immediately brings to mind include:  How exactly was the decision made to spend the campus police’s budget on paramilitary equipment?  What kind of threat did the campus police think they would be called upon to deal with when they purchased this stuff?  Did they expect having to use it to put down student protests (the only thing I can think they might have anticipated facing)?  Do they routinely walk around campus decked out like this, or is this kept only for special occasions?  Did they think, when they were called upon by Chancellor Katehi to break up the Occupy protest, “finally, we get to use this stuff”?

It’s the last question that gives me pause.  I have absolutely no difficulty imagining a scenario in which the UC-Davis Campus Police successfully lobbied to spend its money purchasing anti-protest paramilitary equipment, and then locked it away for years because it was never needed.  But if you have a toy then eventually you are going to want to use it – even if its use really isn’t justified.  Just like Barney Fife from the old Andy Griffith Show, you are going to look for a reason to take that bullet out of your pocket and load it in your gun.

And that, of course, can lead directly to the kind of brutal overreaction we saw at UC-Davis last week.  Video of that incident makes clear that the campus cops’ paramilitary toys weren’t needed then, either . . . but you just know they were looking for an excuse to break this stuff out.

Perhaps we would all have been better off if the people responsible for overseeing things like campus security at UC-Davis had just tamped down on their guard dogs’ Rambo fantasies by pointing out that their job is to protect the security of college students, and thus their job realistically will never really require military-grade anything.

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