School police in several California public school districts are ready for anything -- including, apparently, a small invasion.
The open news website MuckRock found through a recent Freedom of Information Act request that not only are California state and local police departments receiving military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense, but several school police departments are as well.
According to the inventory published by MuckRock, six California school district police departments received equipment from the Department of Defense Excess Property Program, also known as the 1033 Program. The details:
- Baldwin Park School Police Department: 3 M16 assault rifles
- Kern High School District Police: 30 magazine pouches for M4 assault rifle ammunition
- Los Angeles School Police Department: 61 M16 assault rifles, 3 M79 grenade launchers, 1 mine-resistant vehicle
- Oakland Unified School Police: utility truck
- San Diego Unified Schools Police: 1 mine-resistant vehicle
The M16s were valued at $499 each, the grenade launchers at $720, and the mine-resistant vehicles, or MRAPs, at $733,000.
The Pentagon has been giving surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies for more than a decade. The militarized police response in Ferguson, Missouri, to protests over the police killing of teenager Michael Brown has prompted some lawmakers to question the use of the military equipment by police. A recent poll found that 51 percent of Americans think it's unnecessary for police to use military weapons for law enforcement.
"The only thing that I know of is a rescue vehicle," Los Angeles School Police Department Sgt. Steve Mayoral explained to The Huffington Post when asked about the rifles, grenade launchers and armored vehicle -- by far the largest haul by a school police department in the state. Mayoral said school police intend to use the mine-resistant vehicle for rescue emergencies. He said he could not confirm the status of the rifles and grenade launchers.
A Los Angeles Unified School District spokesperson who requested anonymity confirmed school police received the gear noted in the report. The district, which has 400 sworn officers, has been receiving military weaponry since 2001, the spokesperson said.
The M16 rifles the district received have been modified to fire only one shot with each pull of the trigger, and and have only been used in training, the spokesperson said. An officer must complete 40 hours of training before using the military rifle, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the grenade launchers are the type some police departments use for tear gas and have never been used by the school district, which doesn't have munitions for them. The armored vehicle was received over the summer and hasn't been deployed yet.
The spokesperson said one reason the school district sought the military gear was to prepare for a mass shooting incident like Columbine High School or Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The other California school district that received a mine-resistant vehicle was the San Diego Unified School District Police Department, which, according to NBC San Diego, intends to convert it into a "victim rescue vehicle."
“We recognize the public concern over perceived ‘militarization of law enforcement,’ but nothing could be further from the truth for School Police,” San Diego school police Capt. Joseph Florentino explained, NBC San Diego reported.
One other California school police department -- Stockton Unified School District Police -- received surplus military equipment. It was television monitors, an exercise bicycle, a podium and other non-tactical gear.
Representatives from the other school district police departments that received military gear did not immediately return calls for comment.
Read the FOIA requests and download the full list of equipment here from MuckRock.