Last week, the website MuckRock revealed via a Freedom of Information Act request that the Los Angeles School Police Department has received 61 M16 assault rifles, three grenade launchers, and a mine-resistant vehicle from the Pentagon via its 1033 program (which has been getting a lot of attention ever since the Ferguson Police Department decided to roll through town outfitted like an occupying army rather than a peacekeeping force). Why does the K-12 LAUSD have these military weapons and what does it intend to use them for? They didn't respond to our questions about it, but they did respond to the LA Times (which chose to bury this news on its Opinion page), confirming that the LAUSD's 405-officer police department does indeed have 61 M16 assault rifles and three grenade launchers (given to them in 2001) and one mine-resistant vehicle (received this summer).
Chief Steven Zipperman says the Vietnam War grenade launchers—which can be used with tear gas or rubber bullets in addition to grenades—are only on hand in case another agency needs to use them at some point, but he assured the LAT "that the school police never had any intention of [lobbing] grenades at anyone, ever." Phew! The M16s, meanwhile, have been converted to semiautomatic rifles, if that makes much of a difference, and are used for training the "numerous" officers the force equips with just plain old "civilian" semiautomatic rifles "in case of a Columbine High School-type gunman attack."
Zipperman told the Daily News that the LAUSD force has an armoed vehicle so it can rescue students "in the event of a large-scale attack that prevented the Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff's Department from responding to schools in a timely manner." Even Zipperman seems to find that answer a little silly, saying the department will "evaluate whether or not we need to have it parked somewhere and just sitting."
The LASPD is "the largest independent school police department in the United States," according to their website, and the fifth largest law enforcement agency in LA County. Here's more on all the military-grade equipment spread throughout Los Angeles's law enforcement agencies.
· CA releases 1033 program data [MuckRock]
· What LAUSD is doing with its military-surplus grenade launchers and assault rifles [LAT]
· Grenade launchers, armored vehicle part of LAUSD's armory [LADN]
· LA Police Have 3 Grenade Launchers, Lots of Other War Gear [Curbed LA]