Militarization of Police

Are L.A. School Cops 'Protecting the Children' With Grenade Launchers?

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Public Domain

The mission of the Los Angeles School Police Department is "protecting the children" and "providing a safe and tranquil environment in which the educational process can take place." That doesn't seem to overlap much with the mission of the 1033 Program – the Defense Department's (DoD) way of selling off excess military gear – which places a "special emphasis" on providing weapons to domestic law enforcement agencies to engage in "counter-drug and counter-terrorism" activity.

But, hey, how could the the Los Angeles School Police Department turn down a grenade launcher … or three.

MuckRock, an organization that specializes in freedom of information requests, has been diligently building a database of police militarization information, and highlighted L.A.'s new toys in a blog post on Monday.

Grenade launchers given to schools are typically converted to fire less-than-lethal rounds.

The L.A. school cops also have a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP), a piece of equipment that often weighs upwards of 14 tons and was designed to fight asymmetrical warfare against Iraqi insurgents, not provide backup during study period patrol. Los Angeles school officers also have 61 M-16 rifles, presumably to prevent food fights from breaking out. The MRAP is worth $733,000 and each rifle is worth $499, but the DoD gives equipment away for the price of shipping.

L.A. cops aren't the only ones with MRAPs this back to school season. The San Diego Unified School District has one, too. Oakland got stuck with a "tactical" utility truck. 

"We recognize the public concern over perceived 'militarization of law enforcement,' but nothing could be further from the truth for School Police," Capt. Joseph Florentino of the San Diego district told NBC yesterday. Apparently, his department is converting it to a "victim rescue vehicle" that will "be designed for us to get into any hostile situation and pull kids out."

NPR notes that since the 1033 Program began in 2006, the federal government has given cops nearly 80,000 rifles, 12,000 bayonets, and $3.6 million worth of "deception equipment," a.k.a. camoflauge.

Despite the sweet potential field trips kids could take in Florentino's new ride, lawmakers are now questioning whether it's such a good idea to arm cops to the teeth. According to an Associated Press report yesterday, members of Congress are "considering doing more to monitor and hold accountable police departments across the United States that obtain sophisticated military equipment from the federal government." It's a step in the right direction.

On the lighter side: