BALTIMORE (MCT) — Three campus police departments in Maryland now own surplus military gear including "riot type" shotguns, M16 assault rifles and an armored truck under a Defense Department program that's sparked new controversy this month.
The items are part of more than $12 million in surplus military gear given to local police departments in Maryland under the Department of Defense Excess Property Program since 2006, according to Pentagon data released this month.
The surplus military gear has come under scrutiny after the fatal police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9. Police there have used military-style weapons and vehicles to respond to protests sparked by Brown's death.
Officials at the University of Maryland, College Park, Morgan State University and Coppin State University said the shotguns and rifles are or will be used for training purposes.
UM has a $65,000 armored truck, 16 "riot type" 12-gauge shotguns, 49 M16 rifles, and a handful of other items, according to Pentagon data. Coppin received five similar 12-gauge shotguns and 29 40-caliber Glock pistols. Morgan has six 12-gauge shotguns and 13 M16 or M14 rifles.
They are not the only colleges in the country to get such surplus military gear. Florida International University received 50 M16 assault rifles and a mine-resistant vehicle, according to the Miami New Times.
Coppin spokeswoman Tiffany Jones said the shotguns it received are used for training purposes by campus police.
Morgan campus police Chief Adrian J. Wiggins said the college plans to use the shotguns and other items for a training program that is being developed. The long guns are not normally carried by campus police but could be used if an incident warranted it, he said.
Wiggins said the shotguns may be labeled "riot type" but there's nothing special about them. "They look like regular shotguns to me," he said.
UM became notorious for rioting after athletics events, particularly after a violent celebration in downtown College Park after the college's NCAA basketball championship win in 2002. Then, students and others broke windows of businesses, set bonfires, and threw bottles and other objects at police. Seventeen were arrested.
In 2010, a riot sparked by the UM basketball team's win over Duke University resulted in 28 arrests. Police also beat a student in an incident caught on video and one officer was later found guilty of second-degree assault. In 2011, the college started its own monitored bonfire on campus for students to celebrate around, and there have been no riots since then.
UM spokeswoman Katie Lawson said in an email that the armored truck is used as an emergency rescue vehicle and was on display on Maryland Day in the spring. The college also got two transport vehicles.
"Our Emergency Rescue Vehicle is used in the event of an active shooter or any emergency situation that our officers would operate to rescue students, faculty, staff, visitors, and public safety personnel out of harm's way," she wrote. "Our two transport vehicles are used by our officers in inclement weather situations to where a patrol vehicle would not be ideal."
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