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Quad squad: College police forces move towards militarization

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Friday, Nov. 18, 2011: A police officer uses pepper spray as he walks down a line of Occupy demonstrators sitting on the ground at the University of California, Davis. (AP)

Tense demonstrations in Missouri in the wake of a police shooting of an unarmed teen have put a spotlight on the paramilitary trend local police forces are taken, and the phenomenon is visible on college campuses, too.

Big universities and small colleges alike are taking extreme security measures, from setting up elaborate networks of security cameras to purchasing urban-warfare vehicles and semi-automatic rifles.

In 2013, the campus police at The Ohio State University procured a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle (MRAP), according to the Daily Caller. The vehicle, which school officials noted was “acquired at no cost from military surplus,” has a gun turret on the roof and is designed to stave off ambushes and roll over improvised explosive devices. OSU was also the first agency in the state to acquire an MRAP at the time.

Around the nation, officers from campus agencies across the country have been receiving SWAT-style training since 2007. In addition, many of the agencies are acquiring weapons directly from the Department of Defense.

Evidence of beefed up college police arsenals was also seen in 2011, during the height of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests when camps cops at UC Davis in Northern California were seen controlling the crowd in full riot gear. A year later, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte appointed its own SWAT team, outfitted with MP-15 rifles, M&P .40 caliber pistols and shotguns.

According to federal data from 2008, nine out of 10 college policing agencies employ sworn police officers and have armed patrols with the authorization to use deadly force if need be.

Last December, one such example of deadly force was used by a campus officer at the University of the Incarnate Word, a Catholic college in San Antonio. Senior student Robert Redus was fatally shot by a campus officer after he tried to grab his baton during a traffic stop. Redus, an honors student who was set to graduate this summer, was shot five times at close range.

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