The University of Central Florida has a grenade launcher and Florida International University has 50 assault rifles

Published Sept. 17, 2014

Nine things I underlined in this recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

1. Should the campus police at the University of Central Florida ever need a modified grenade launcher, one sits waiting in the department's armory. Retooled to fire tear-gas canisters, the weapon was used several years ago for training purposes, according to Richard Beary, the university's chief of police. It hasn't left storage since.

At Central Florida, which has an enrollment of nearly 60,000 and a Division I football team, the device was acquired, a police spokeswoman said, for "security and crowd control." ...

2. At least 117 colleges have acquired equipment from the department through a federal program, known as the 1033 program, that transfers military surplus to law-enforcement agencies across the country, according to records The Chronicle received after filing Freedom of Information requests with state governments.

3. Central Florida got eight of its M-16 assault rifles in 2011, and 15 more were transferred to the department in February of the following year. At campus police departments, much like their counterparts at the local, state, and federal level, the most popular weapon procured through the 1033 program is the M-16 assault rifle.

4. At least 60 institutions have acquired M-16s through the program. Arizona State University holds the most, with 70 in its arsenal, followed by Florida International University and the University of Maryland with 50 M-16s each. Central Florida received its grenade launcher in 2008 ...

5. "For me, this is a cost savings for taxpayers," said Jen Day Shaw, associate vice president and dean of students at the University of Florida and chair of the Campus Safety Knowledge Community, a forum for members of Naspa: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. When police departments "have the ability to get equipment that will help them do their jobs at a greatly reduced price," Ms. Shaw said, "it is a benefit for the whole campus."

6. "It is a force multiplier for us," said David Perry, chief of police at Florida State University and president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. "Typically, we are not staffed at optimum levels. We are not given budgets comparable to some large cities and municipalities, so we need to find ways to make it reach."

7. At Central Florida, Chief Beary said, M-16 rifles are stored in vehicles for emergencies, like the one his officers responded to at midnight on March 18, 2013. Answering a call for a pulled fire alarm, officers eventually raided the dormitory room of James Seevakumaran, 30, and found a handgun, an assault rifle, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and four homemade bombs. Mr. Seevakumaran was also in the room, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The police said the would-be gunman had intended to force students into the hall with the fire alarm, where he would be waiting with his weapons.

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"What was once the unthinkable has become the inevitable," Mr. Beary said. "These bad guys have plans and are heavily armed, and law enforcement needs to be able to keep up with them. In order to do that, police officers need to be highly trained, well equipped, and ready to respond to any scenario."

8. To alleviate some of the apprehension surrounding the use of military weapons on a college campus, said Linda J. Stump, the University of Florida's police chief, transparency is key. The University of Florida police department acquired an armored truck in 2007 under the 1033 program. Ms. Stump said the vehicle would be deployed only during an active-shooter situation and never for a civil disturbance.

9. When the Florida State police department acquired a Humvee through the 1033 program, Mr. Perry said, he briefed administrators on the instances in which the vehicle would be used—in active-shooter scenarios, for example, but also during a hurricane or at events for community outreach.