September 19, 2014
LOS ANGELES (AP) — School police departments across the country have taken advantage of free military surplus gear, stocking up on mine resistant armored vehicles, grenade launchers and scores of M16 rifles.
At least 26 school districts have participated in the Pentagon’s surplus program, which is not new but has come under scrutiny after police responded to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, last month with tear gas, armored military trucks and riot gear.
Now, amid that increased criticism, several school districts say they’ll give some of the equipment back, while others plan to keep the rifles they received. Nearly two dozen education and civil liberties groups sent a letter earlier this week to the Pentagon and the Justice and Education departments urging a stop to transfers of military weapons to school police.
The Los Angeles Unified School District — the nation’s second largest school district covering 710 square miles (1,840 sq. kilometers) and enrolling more than 900,000 students — said it would remove three grenade launchers it had acquired because they “are not essential life-saving items within the scope, duties and mission” of the district’s police force.