Internal documents obtained in August reveal the University of Connecticut Police Department possesses 82 AR-15s, 130 pistols, 61 tasers and 104,750 rounds of ammunition. This information was revealed in an internal itemized inventory list of all weapons and ammunition that described the extent of the police department’s arsenal.
steve núñez, a UConn PhD philosophy student and abolitionist, said he received the documents accidently during a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) appeal hearing in which UConn and state attorneys were trying to deny public access to the documents regarding UConn PD’s weapons arsenal.
núñez said he was surprised by the number of weapons that UConn PD possessed, especially considering the multiple levels of policing that Storrs and other UConn campuses fall under.
“I would want to hear a justification for why you need 130 pistols, 82 AR-15s, 61 tasers and roughly 105,000 rounds [for UConn PD],” said núñez.
The Daily Campus requested an interview with the UConn Police Department about its weapons arsenal via University Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz. This request was denied, and a statement was given instead.
“Like some other security measures, specifics of the UConn Police Department’s firearms inventory are best addressed in writing. This helps to ensure clarity and to avoid potential misunderstandings or miscommunications about planning and strategies involving campus safety,” Reitz said.
UConn Police Department Chief of Police Gerald Lewis provided the following statement regarding the police’s arsenal.
“Considering the number of active shooter and mass shooter incidents that occur throughout the country, it is appropriate and necessary that we be trained, prepared and properly equipped to respond to any violent threat to our campus safety. Our inventory contains an adequate amount of equipment to enable our officers to meet our goal of being able to protect our university community against potentially violent situations,” Lewis said. “While we hope that violence never occurs here, we continue to take precautions and measured steps in our efforts to prevent these types of incidents before they occur.”
núñez said he FOIA’d access to a detailed itemized list of weapons after he saw evidence that UConn PD had received two M14 Assault Rifles and other equipment from the United States Department of Defense 1033 program, which transfers military weapons and equipment to local police departments.
núñez said the accumulation of weapons by UConn PD under the 1033 program led to other questions about how extensive the UConn PD’s arsenal was.
He then proceeded to submit a FOIA request to the university regarding a “comprehensive list documenting a line item inventory list of all University of Connecticut Public Safety items, but limited to, equipment, firearms, munitions, machinery and vehicles, including cost per item; and 2) a full itemized inventory of the UConn Police Department’s weapons and equipment,” said núñez.
núñez said the University of Connecticut responded with a number of documents that described in great detail line-item identification of equipment from cars and trucks to 16 portable radios but did not have any information about weapons or ammunition.
“I put in a FOIA that was like, ‘Hey, I’m very interested in what the inventory looks like for the UConn PD? So, they sent me back a number of documents, some of them were the controllable property for public safety, so that’s like all the things that have serial numbers that they have for inventory,” núñez said. “That includes computers, laptops, notebooks that are in cars, all the electronic sh*t is on one of the lists, and on another list, they have other controllable material like vehicles, a dog, like all sorts of sh*t is on these lists, but they didn’t send anything about weapons, which was like all that I wanted.”
núñez said that on December 7, 2020, he received a letter from the State of Connecticut Department of Administrative Services in which he was informed that under the pressing of former UConn President Thomas Katsouleas, the Department of Administrative Services granted an exemption of the weapons and ammunition information from being revealed in the FOIA request.
“I got a letter from the department of administrative services at the state of Connecticut, and Tom Katsouleas asked them to deny the request essentially, and they denied it saying it would put officers’ lives at risk,” núñez said.
The DAS said such information could hinder law enforcement activities or allow criminals to know what resources would be necessary to overcome law enforcement in the FOIA exemption letter.
“Based on this review, DAS finds that the public disclosure of information about the UConn Public Safety officers could allow a person(s) with criminal intent to plan how to counter the efforts of law enforcement personnel to apprehend criminals or to defend themselves from persons with criminal intent by providing critical information as to what efforts or resources would be necessary to overcome law enforcement,” Commissioner of Administrative Services Josh Geballe said via a letter to Thomas Katsouleas.
núñez said he didn’t believe that the exemption was justified. He said he believed the publication of inventory information would not put any officers in danger, especially considering the number of UConn PD officers is public information and officers can only hold so many weapons. He proceeded to file a FOIA appeal to the State of Connecticut to get the documents that were denied.
“I got that on December 7 of last year, so I called around, looked for some lawyers, and ultimately didn’t get a lawyer or anything, but I’m like, I’m willing to appeal it anyways so I sent in [an] appeal letter saying I’m appealing this decision, I don’t think that there are grounds, I think that you’re using rules a little sloppily and I made a case and we scheduled a hearing,” núñez said.
núñez said that during the hearings for the FOIA appeal, which happened this August, state attorneys trying to protect UConn PD’s itemized inventory list accidentally sent it to him.
“We had the hearing in August of this year, and it just so happened that the attorney for the state during the collection of evidence during the Zoom meeting sent me the document that they were trying to deny me,” núñez said. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t have this. They accidentally disclosed it to me.”
núñez said that he withdrew his FOIA appeal following the accidental release of the information. He said that he was lucky since this kind of information regarding the police is often denied.
“There has been a precedent of people asking for these things and getting denied too.” núñez said.
núñez also said that the revealed list is not comprehensive and that there are likely more weapons that are not reflected in this document.
“This is definitely not all of it, like the two sniper rifles are not on here, I also requested how many bullets they have … and some of the rounds they have are shotgun shells and shotguns aren’t listed for example, so I know they have two sniper rifles that aren’t listed from the DOD 1033 program, and if they have shotgun shells I imagine they have shotguns as well,” said núñez.
núñez said he would like to see the money spent on the police department spent in other areas such as mental health instead.
“This goes back to the conversation we had about divestment. What does the $18 million dollars look like, and this is part of the question. I was in conversation with Tom Katsouleas around [how he’s] closed down all these offices like the Office of Community Engagement and backpedaled from the CT Commitment that could improve and prevent what you’re talking about, prevent these bad things from happening,” núñez said.
núñez also FOIA’d the crime statistics the UConn PD has reported over the last five years and found that of the top five crimes committed, none were violent. The top five crimes over the past five years were larceny (229), criminal mischief (171), breach of peace (125), disorderly conduct (89) and forgery (68).
“It’s a university with 18,000 undergraduates, [and] you’re largely arresting people for criminal mischief,” núñez said. “You don’t need 105,000 bullets pointed at students’ heads.”