Los Angeles School Police Department announced this week that it would be sending some controversial surplus military equipment back to the federal government. Specifically, the school police will send back three grenade launchers. In related news, LA school police had grenade launchers.
What the protectors of the LA Unified school district are sending back is perhaps less relevant than what they are keeping. While school cops won't be launching grenades, they will have access to an arsenal of 61 automatic M-16 rifles that have been modified to semi-automatic as well as a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle. That's basically a tank. For school police.
The LA Unified school police decision comes at a time when local police departments all over the country are under great scrutiny for accepting free military equipment that has returned home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has been happening for years, but only recently made headlines when officers in Ferguson, Missouri showed up on the street in full camouflage, toting high-powered assault rifles and riding on the backs of Bearcats. (Bearcats are also a lot like tanks). Americans have never really liked the idea of martial law, and images of this scene did not go over well with the general public.
But police departments sending stuff back is a good thing. It's just too bad there's way too damn much of it out there. The Department of Defense's 1033 program gave out $752 million worth of surplus military gear to police departments nationwide this year. That's a huge increase compared to the $500 million or so last year. Both of those are really, really big numbers! Obviously, the gear didn't just go to municipal police departments, either. At least 117 college received military gear, and who knows how many more grade school police departments got grenade launchers, assault rifles, and tanks.
Of course, some might say that America's school shooting problem is justification for arming school police more aggressively. Think about that for a second, though. Will flooding the country with more weapons really fix this country's violence problem? Will it? [LAT]
Image via U.S. Air Force