The Los Angeles School Police Department will return three grenade launchers it acquired from the Pentagon's excess equipment program, police officials told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday.
But school police plan to keep 61 rifles and an armored vehicle acquired through the Defense Department's 1033 program, which provides law enforcement agencies with extra military-grade gear at no charge. At least 22 school systems in eight states have received equipment through the program.
A Marine fires an M32 grenade launcher at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The Los Angeles School Police Department, which serves the nation's second-largest school system, plans to return three grenade launchers it received from the Department of Defense, but will keep 61 rifles and an armored vehicle. (Image source: Department of Defense)
A police sergeant who declined to be named told Reuters the department had received the equipment from the military and called it necessary "for the safety of staff, students, and personnel."
The sergeant said the grenade launchers and the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle — built to withstand roadside bombs — would only be used in "very specific circumstances," though didn't give examples of such a scenario.
Deborah Fowler, deputy director of Texas Appleseed, a social justice nonprofit, said in a statement that other more common weapons used by officers and security guards, such as Tasers and pepper spray, have been misused in schools. Much of this excessive force is targeted at students of color and those with disabilities, she said.
"Military-grade weapons have no place on our public school campuses," Fowler said. "We're simply calling for a return to common sense when it comes to the way our schools are kept safe," she said.
The Los Angeles School Police Department serves the nation's second-largest school system. Officials said the M-16 automatic rifles they received in 2001 are modified to semi-automatic, and are "essential life-saving items" that will continue to be available to trained officers. The armored vehicle will be used only under extraordinary circumstances, officials said.
Following the unrest set off in Ferguson, Missouri, last month over the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, by a white police officer, President Barack Obama ordered a review of the 1033 program to evaluate how the war-worthy equipment has been used and distributed.
The Los Angeles Police School District did not immediate respond to TheBlaze's request for comment.