In response to growing calls to “defund the police,” the University of Maryland (UMD) said its police department will no longer participate in a federal program that transfers surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies.
Newly appointed UMD President Darryll Pines announced the change on the first day of his tenure, saying in a statement that he “wholeheartedly” supports that campus police withdraw from what is commonly known as the 1033 program.
First established in 1990 by the Defense Department, the 1033 program provides surplus military weapons, vehicles, and other equipment and supplies to police departments in the United States. It was fully restored by the Trump administration in 2017, two years after the Obama administration imposed restrictions that prevented certain types of items from being repurposed for domestic policing.
University of Maryland Police Department (UMPD) Chief David Mitchell previously told student newspaper The Diamondback that taking advantage of the 1033 program has allowed his department to obtain equipment necessary for campus safety at a bargain price.
“People expect us to be prepared,” Mitchell said during an interview. “Being prepared means having the right equipment and the right training.”
Through the program, the UMPD has obtained two 7.62-millimeter rifles that are used by the university’s honor guard at sports events, two armored trucks that are meant to serve as emergency rescue vehicles but never once have been deployed, and 25 5.56-millimeter rifles that can arm an entire squad of officers to handle hostage or active shooter situations.
Those equipment will be given back to the program, a UMPD spokesperson told CBS News.
In addition to ending its participation in the 1033 program, the university will create a new task force to scrutinize policing.
“It will examine procedures and practices related to bias, racial profiling, and the use of force, including those that result from our partnerships with other law enforcement agencies; protocols to ban the use of choke holds; and banning the use of pepper spray during peaceful gatherings,” Pines said.
The police reform at UMD comes as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan continues to voice his support of law enforcement in the state. In an interview with Time Magazine, the Republican governor said calls to “defund the police” are a “terrible idea,” adding that in order to improve police-community relationships, more funding should be directed into police recruitment, training, and equipment.
“You’ve got to invest in those communities and … help with some of the underlying socio-economic problems,” Hogan said. “But eliminating or defunding the police is not the way.”