Universities secretive SWAT teams are being trained by Israeli SWAT teams


Article first appeared in the economicpolicyjournal:

California – I did have an interesting conversation with a salesman who sold night vision goggles to police SWAT teams. He said most of the training was aimed at battling terrorism. But then he added,“You know, the greater San Francisco area has more SWAT teams than any other part of the country.”  

SWAT, an acronym for “Special Weapons And Tactics,” describes a team of law enforcement officers who are specifically trained to respond to potential life threatening situations. SWAT teams use military-grade weapons, ammunition and equipment to respond to hostage, terrorist, riot and heavily armed criminal situations.

The salesman considered San Jose to the south and Berkeley to the east as part of the greater San Francisco area. He told me that the University of California, Berkeley has its own SWAT team and the  he said, “Even Pittsburgh, California has a SWAT team, what the hell is Pittsburgh, California and why do they need a SWAT team?”

In October, UC Berkeley played host to an “ Urban Shield” SWAT training exercise involving local and campus agencies, the California National Guard, and special police forces from Israel, Jordan, and Bahrain.  And since 2010, West Texas A&M has played host to paramilitary training programs for police from Mexico.

University police donned black military-style fatigues and, armed with automatic weapons, practiced how to rescue hostages from armed assailants and how to capture barricaded gunmen.

The unit will also be prepared for any potential trouble that might arise from the visit of a controversial political figure. Like when Gerry Adams, the leader of the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, spoke to students.

Although college campuses have a lower crime rate than the nation over all, law-enforcement officials say that in these times campus police must be prepared for the most violent situations.

“Universities and campuses are not enclaves that are immune to these kind of things,” said Chief Victoria L. Harrison of the university Police Department, which has more than 80 members.

The department has trained about 10 officers for the special weapons and tactics group, or the “special response unit,” as it is called here. Chief Harrison said the unit would be summoned for “any kind of situation that requires an exceptional response,” and for serving arrest warrants in cases in which weapons might be involved.

I asked him what other cities had strong SWAT teams presence. He told me the names you would expect, Chicago, New York Los Angeles.  Just to jilt the conversation a bit, I asked him about Miami. He said, “Nothing registers on the radar, the same with Atlanta, not much going on.”

The SWAT team conference he was attending was a regional event. There were 36 SWAT teams attending, 30 from the San Francisco region  and a few outliers,including a SWAT team from Israel.

UNC-Charlotte has its own SWAT team.

Why does the University of North Carolina-Charlotte need a SWAT team? “Virginia Tech and Columbine,” explains Lieutenant Josh Huffman of Campus Police.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte got  its very own SWAT team, equipped with MP-15 rifles, M&P 40 sidearms, and Remington shotguns.  “We have integrated SWAT officers into the squads that serve our campus day and night,” boasted UNC Charlotte Chief of Police Jeff Baker.  The following month, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a SWAT team staged an armed raid on an occupied building, pointing assault rifles at the heads of activists, among them UNC students.  

Radley Balko, a journalist who covers the militarization of police, says: 

Any given middle school, high school, or college in America can expect to have exactly one homicide on its campus every 12,000 years. So how long before the UNC-Charlotte SWAT team feels the need to justify its existence by expanding its mission? I predict they’re serving drug warrants and raiding frat houses within a year.

Ohio University has a certified SWAT team for the first time in its history, an important capability for a rural campus.

Five members of the Ohio University Police Department, who also completed active shooter training in July, are undergoing formal basic SWAT education  on campus and in various locations in the surrounding area.

OUPD Chief of Police Michael Martinsen recently created the SWAT team because he wants his department to be prepared for any type of emergency. Because of Athens’ location, it would take between 60 to 90 minutes for the closest SWAT team to arrive on campus from Columbus.

“I had the idea of a SWAT team before Virginia Tech happened, but that incident confirmed my thoughts that we needed one,” Martinsen said. “It will enhance the department’s ability to respond to a crisis. Our SWAT team will be able to isolate a dangerous situation and move people away from the threat until more help arrives.”

The Radford University Police Department SWAT team is comprised of highly trained officers who are dedicated to the safety of the RU community and to the preservation of life.

“We’ve known for a while now that American neighborhoods are increasingly being policed by cops armed with the weapons and tactics of war,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel at the ACLU’s Center for Justice, which is coordinating the investigation. “The aim of this investigation is to find out just how pervasive this is, and to what extent federal funding is incentivizing this trend.”






http://boingboing.net/2012/02/02/unc-charlotte-gets-its-own-swa.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/06/aclu-police-militarization-swat_n_2813334.html

SWAT teams & campus spies how DHS has taken over our universities:

Since 2007, campus police forces have decisively escalated their tactics, expanded their arsenals, and trained ever more of their officers in SWAT-style paramilitary policing.  Many agencies acquire their arms directly from the Department of Defense through a surplus weapons sales program known as “ 1033,” which offers, among other things, “ used grenade launchers (for the deployment of less lethal weapons)… for a significantly reduced cost.

According to the most recent  federal data available, nine out of 10 campus agencies with sworn police officers now deploy armed patrols authorized to use deadly force.  Nine in 10 also authorize the use of chemical munitions, while one in five make regular use of Tasers.  An 18-year old student athlete died after being  tased at the University of Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, many campus police squads have been educated in the art of war through regular special weapons training sessions by “tactical officers’ associations” which run a kind of SWAT university.

“We have to go where terrorism takes us, so we often have to go onto campuses,” FBI Special Agent Jennifer Gant told  Campus Safety Magazine in an interview last year.  To that end, campus administrators and campus police chiefs are now known to coordinate their operations with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “ special advisors,” FBI “ campus liaison agents,” an FBI-led National Security Advisory Board, and a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which instructs local law enforcement in everything from “physical techniques” to “behavioral science.”

More than half of campus police forces already have “ intelligence-sharing agreements” with these and other government agencies in place. 

Students’ social media accounts have become a favorite destination for everyone from campus police officers to analysts at the Department of Homeland Security.

In 2010, the DHS National Operations Center established a  Media Monitoring Capability (MMC).  According to an internal agency document, MMC is tasked with “leveraging news stories, media reports and postings on social media sites… for operationally relevant data, information, analysis, and imagery.”  The definition of operationally relevant data includes “media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities,” “partisan or agenda-driven sites,” and a final category ambiguously labeled “research/studies, etc.”

With the Occupy movement coming to campus, even university police departments have gotten in on the action.  According to a how-to guide called “ Essential Ingredients to Working with Campus Protests” by UC Santa Barbara police chief Dustin Olson, the first step to take is to “monitor social media sites continuously,” both for intelligence about the “leadership and agenda” and “for any messages that speak to violent or criminal behavior.”

At the core of the homeland security-university partnership are DHS’s 12 centers of excellence. (A number that has  doubled since I first reported on the initiative in 2008.)  The DHS  Office of University Programs advertises the centers of excellence as an “extended consortium of hundreds of universities” which work together “to develop customer-driven research solutions” and “to provide essential training to the next generation of homeland security experts.”

But what kind of research is being carried out at these centers of excellence, with the support of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year?  Among the 41 “ knowledge products” currently in use by DHS or being evaluated in pilot studies, we find an “extremist crime database,” a “Minorities at Risk for Organizational Behavior” dataset, analytics for aerial surveillance systems along the border, and social media monitoring technologies.  Other  research focuses include biometrics, “suspicious behavior detection,” and “violent radicalization.”

Universities like Harvard have struck multimillion-dollar deals with multinational  private security firms like Securitas, deploying unsworn, underpaid, often untrained “protection officers” on campus as “ extra eyes and ears.” The University of Wisconsin-Madison, in one  report, boasts that police and private partners have been “seamlessly integrated.”

Step by step, at school after school, the homeland security campus has executed a silent coup in the decade since September 11th.  The university, thus usurped, has increasingly become an instrument not of higher learning, but of intelligence gathering and paramilitary training, of profit-taking on behalf of America’s  increasingly embattled “1%.”

For many, the rise of the homeland security campus has provoked some basic questions about the aims and principles of a higher education: Whom does the university serve? Whom does it protect? Who is to speak? Who is to be silenced? To whom does the future belong?



NSA-like  surveillance on today’s campuses:

The National Security Agency? Nope. It’s your average college or university.

FIRE’s Nico Perrino cites examples ranging from Montana to Occidental to Kentucky to Valdosta State to St. Augustine’s College to Johns Hopkins, noting the prevalence of the anti-privacy pattern. Perrino leads by recalling events from earlier this year at Harvard, when university officials eventually confessed to having snooped on the e-mails of 16 house resident deans. The resident deans are officially members of Harvard’s faculty, and the searches violated Harvard policies.

The searches came after media revelations of Harvard’s largest cheating scandal in recent memory. At the time, then-Harvard College dean Evelynn Hammonds justified the searches on grounds that “we needed to act to protect our students.” Yet at least some of the resident deans exposed to the improper searches were also Harvard students (resident deans are often advanced graduate students). And, in any case, the searches seemed motivated less by a desire to protect students than to find blame for who might have exposed a deeply embarrassing event for the university–two of the students caught up in the cheating scandal were members of Harvard’s APR-challenged basketball team, a fact that got significant play in media coverage. (APR, or Academic Progress Rate, introduced by the NCAA, measures the likelihood of graduation by Division I athletes.)

When Harvard University violated school policy by secretly searching deans’ email accounts, the world glimpsed the intrusive measures one school took to monitor online activity of its staff. “We needed to act to protect our students,” said then-dean of Harvard College Evelynn Hammonds, who authorized the search in response to leaked information about a high-profile cheating scandal at the Ivy League institution.

Unlike the NSA, universities don’t play any role in protecting our national security. So the issue of privacy tradeoffs seems far less relevant to any discussion of privacy rights at college. Yet the Harvard episode–while extreme–is part of a troubling disregard of privacy on contemporary campuses. “At schools across the country,” Perrino observes, “administrators use similarly invasive surveillance tools to monitor everything from students’ off-campus behavior to their online speech.” 

But at schools across the country, administrators use similarly invasive surveillance tools to monitor everything from students’ off-campus behavior to their online speech. University lawyers and administrators claim such surveillance programs are necessary to “protect” their stakeholders. But in reality, these actions are often just heavy-handed strategies colleges use to control their public image – at students’ expense. 

Many athletic departments hire companies like UDiligence and Varsity Monitor to watch after the social media profiles of their student athletes. The services search for keywords in athletes’ profiles and alert coaches or administrators when they are used. Words or phrases like “Benjamins”, “Sam Adams”, and, bizarrely, “Gazongas” are among those keywords flagged by the monitoring programs.

In 2007, Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes was expelled without due process (pdf) for protesting University President Ronald Zaccari’s plan to spend $30m of student fee money on building campus parking garages. Zaccari went to extreme lengths to mute Barnes’ criticism: he monitored Barnes’ Facebook page, ordered university staff to look into his health, and ultimately had an expulsion note slipped under his dorm room door that identified him as a “clear and present danger” to campus. (In 2012, the Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals held Zaccari personally liable for violating Barnes’ legal rights.)

In another brazen exercise of snooping and censorship, St Augustine’s College (SAC) in North Carolina punished student Roman Caple in 2011 for a Facebook post on the college’s official page that, according to the school’s vice president of student affairs, “jeopardized the integrity of the college”. The offending post simply called for fellow students to “come correct, be prepared, and have supporting documents” at a public meeting where campus leaders were scheduled to discuss the school’s response to a recent tornado that cut off power to many SAC students.

Lately, tracking student social media has gotten so out of control that Delaware and California havepassed legislation limiting schools’ ability to do such monitoring.

But as we know from the Harvard imbroglio, the monitoring of online activity isn’t limited to students. Last month, a professor at Johns Hopkins University wrote a blog post critical of the NSA and was asked to take it down and stop using the NSA logo by one of the school’s deans. (The school later apologized.) And at Occidental College, administrators recently confiscated the computers and cell phones of at least eight faculty members and dozens of staff members allegedly as part of an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) into campus sexual assault procedures. But in aninterview with The Huffington Post, an OCR official said that “OCR did not require Occidental to confiscate faculty members’ laptops and cells”. 

Nor is the monitoring of students’ lives limited to what they do online. Presumably to ensure they don’t miss those moments when students are away from their computers, administrators at the University of Kentucky (UK) released a plan to install 2,000 surveillance cameras on campus and give students new ID cards that will contain chips that can track student movements in and out of buildings. 

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, UK police Chief Joe Monroe said that the plan will give the school an “unprecedented capability for monitoring the campus for crime and protecting our students, employees and visitors”. But as a spokeswoman for the ACLU of Kentucky told the Herald-Leader, the program is ripe for misuse depending how information is used and how long it is kept.


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