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NDSCS to get rid of combat gear; college says battle rifles received years ago aren't needed

WAHPETON, N.D. - North Dakota State College of Science leaders here confirmed Tuesday that campus police possess combat gear, but they're planning to get rid of it.

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WAHPETON, N.D. – North Dakota State College of Science leaders here confirmed Tuesday that campus police possess combat gear, but they’re planning to get rid of it.

Barbara Spaeth-Baum, a spokeswoman with the college, said campus police have found they don’t have a use for the pair of M14 battle rifles in their inventory.

“At the time, when we acquired them, we were responsible for responding to all critical situations on campus,” she said. That’s now a job for the regional special-response team, she said.

NDSCS was one of 117 campuses nationwide that received combat gear through the U.S. Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which channels military surplus to law-enforcement agencies, according to a recent report by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

No other North Dakota campus was in the report. In Minnesota, the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus was the only institution in the report. Campus police there own a pair of M14s and half a dozen M16 assault rifles.

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Many other campuses nationwide boast an arsenal that includes grenade launchers and armored trucks.

The 1033 program has come under intense scrutiny in recent months following an overwhelming police response to protests in Ferguson, Mo., that included armored trucks and assault rifles. Some critics have decried the “militarization” of police officers, though defenders of the program say officers benefit from better gear.

In Wahpeton, campus police have not deployed their battle rifles since receiving them some three to seven years ago from the state Game and Fish Department, which probably got them from the military, Spaeth-Baum said.

M14s are Vietnam War-era infantry weapons that have seen a revival, equipping U.S. snipers and squad marksmen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gun shops now sell civilian versions that use equally powerful ammunition.

Spaeth-Baum said NDSCS’ M14s are older rifles not equipped with sniper scopes, just open sights, which she figures is one reason Game and Fish rejected them.

Campus police ran a periodic check of their inventory a year ago and rejected them also, she said.

Besides lacking scopes, the rifles are a challenge to use because it’s hard to get ammunition for them and NDSCS doesn’t have the resources to train officers to use them, she said. “These weapons are of little value to the college.”

 

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