The branch of the Los Angeles police assigned to securing the city’s schools is deployed with an almost military-grade arsenal, recently disclosed documents have revealed.
Under a Defense Department program known as the 1033 Program that provides police with surplus military gear, the Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) has obtained 61 M16 assault rifles, three grenade launchers, and even a mine-resistant armored vehicle (MRAP).
The LASPD’s haul wasn’t the only one by special school police forces, though it was the largest by a wide margin. San Diego’s school police have their own MRAP, while the LA suburb of Baldwin Park picked up three M-16s.
The weapon acquisitions, first revealed by the site MuckRock, were apparently made all the way back in 2001, although the MRAP was obtained this past summer.
Steve Zipperman, chief of the LASPD, told the Los Angeles Times that the assault rifles, originally capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute, had been converted into semi-automatic weapons used for training in the event of a school shooting, and that the MRAP was intended for a possible crisis situation where police would have to move groups of children.
Zipperman also tried to assure citizens that the department had no plans to use the grenade launchers, whether for firing explosives or non-lethal weapons like tear gas. The launchers, he said, are available in case the LASPD is called upon to assist the LAPD during emergency situations, though he said such a request has never been made.
Following the public disclosure of the weapons’ existence, Zipperman has indicated the department is rethinking its possession of them.
The increased use of military equipment by domestic police departments has come under increased public scrutiny in recent months, in particular following protests in Ferguson, Missouri over the shooting death of Michael Brown. Police in Ferguson were subjected to widespread criticism over their use of military gear, armored vehicles, and heavy weapons to contain rioters in the city.
The LASPD did not immediately return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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