L.A. school district gives up grenade launchers, keeps M16 rifles – huh?

Responding to critics who say that some police departments have become too militarized, the nation’s second largest school district’s police force says it will be getting rid of some of their military grade weapons.

By some, they mean three. And they plan to keep the mine resistant armored vehicle.

A Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle
A Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle

For years, school districts and other police forces in several states have received free military grade equipment through a program run by the Pentagon to divest the U.S. military of unneeded gear, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

However, after police in Ferguson, Mo., deployed tear gas and armored trucks with turret-mounted weapons against rioters, the appropriateness of the program has been called into question.

As a result, a number of school districts have said they plan to return some of the equipment. One of those is the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, with almost a million students.

District police Chief Steve Zipperman said the district will keep an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle and 60 M16 rifles it acquired from the Pentagon – but will return three grenade launchers it has deemed “not essential life-saving items.”

At least five other California school districts have acquired military surplus equipment through the program, according to federal records cited by the Mercury News.

One of those is the Baldwin Park school district, where police Chief Jill Poe says of the three M16 rifles acquired by a former chief, “Honestly, I could not tell you why we acquired those.”

Another is San Diego Unified, which also owns an MRAP. District spokeswoman Ursula Kroemer says the district has stripped the vehicle of weapons mounts and will equip it, instead, with “medical supplies and teddy bears.”

She added that the district will paint the vehicle white and perhaps add a Red Cross symbol to “assuage community worries.”

Unless the community worries have to do with the eyesore that is military beige, that may not do the trick.


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