Prompting criticism, the head of LAUSD’s school police department has confirmed that the agency obtain a mine-resistant vehicle, three grenade launchers and 61 assault rifles under a Pentagon program, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The arsenal was provided by the Department of Defense’s excess property program, also known as the 1033 Program, which supplies surplus military weapons to local law enforcement. The program has distributed more than $5 billion worth of equipment since its inception in 1997, according to its website.
The “militarization” of police agencies under the 1033 Program has come under the spotlight in recent weeks in part due to the police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after an officer’s fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Officers holding rifles were seen clad in military gear and gas masks while armored vehicles rolled along streets.
Since then, items obtained from the program have been under increased scrutiny at police agencies across the country.
The list of military items obtained by L.A. school police was first reported by the website MuckRock, which on Sept. 8 published a tally of such military supplies given to all California school police departments.
The data was obtained from the California Office of Emergency Services in response to collaborative investigative news website’s public records request.
The mine-resistance vehicle was given to the Los Angeles School Police Department over the summer, Chief Steve Zipperman told the Times in an opinion piece published Sept. 12. The armored vehicle is referred to an MRAP, for mine-resistant ambush protection.
A similar vehicle was also obtained by San Diego Unified School District police, KTLA sister station KSWB reported last week. The district’ police chief said such a vehicle could move an entire classroom of children from harm’s way.
The assault rifles and grenade launchers came into LASPD possession in 2001, Zipperman said. The rifles were converted to semi-automatic and are used for training, according the chief.
After the Times opinion piece was published, Zipperman said he was reconsidering whether the armored vehicle and grenade launchers were necessary, the Daily News reported Saturday.
Asked about the LAUSD police department’s arsenal, several parents at an elementary school in East Hollywood said school officers should not have such weapons.
“The surplus for the military — it shouldn’t be allocated to LAUSD,” father Fred Cedro said. “We have different priorities.”