The cities of Berkeley and Albany and the University of California at Berkeley said Thursday that they will no longer seek a federal grant of more than $160,000 to buy an armored vehicle. The police agencies of all three public entities recently banded together to seek a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for an armored vehicle that they would share and would be housed at the UC Berkeley campus. But the proposal came under scrutiny at two Berkeley City Council meetings in late June at which council members said they wanted more information about the vehicle.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said Thursday that the proposal to buy the armored vehicle was "almost a fait accompli" before the City Council learned about it and credited Berkeley Copwatch, a volunteer police watchdog group, for filing a Public Records Act request that brought it to light.
"It should have been vetted and brought to our attention and it's very upsetting that that didn't happen," Bates said.
Bates, Albany Mayor Farid Javendal and UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said in a statement that, "Law enforcement's interest in obtaining a vehicle that would protect officers during situations involving oncoming gunfire, or to rescue victims during such situations, such as occurred at Oikos University in Oakland a few months ago, is understandable."
But they said that after the planned acquisition came to the attention of campus and city officials, "Campus administrators evaluated the proposal and concluded that such a military-style vehicle is not the best choice for a university setting."
Bates said, "We are concerned about the safety of our citizens and our police officers, but this approach is not in alignment with our values and we don't believe it is needed."
He said the three public entities are notifying the Department of Homeland Security that they are declining the grant.
Bates said he doesn't think the city of Berkeley or the university would need an armored vehicle very often and if they did they could obtain one from nearby cities that have them, such as Oakland and San Francisco.
He said he, Javendal and Birgeneau "are united in our opinion that we don't need it and we don't want it."