The Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) will relinquish three grenade launchers following a public backlash.
However, the department will continue to possess over 60 M16 assault rifles as well as a mine-resistant armored vehicle, or MRAP, previously used by soldiers in Iraq.
The rifles, which have been converted into semi-automatics since their acquisition, are “essential life-saving items,” the LASPD said in its announcement. The rifles, the department has said, are used to train police for school shooting emergencies in which heavy weaponry may be necessary.
The MRAP, meanwhile, is regarded as potentially useful in an evacuation scenario during a more widespread city emergency, said LASPD chief Steve Zipperman.
The grenade launchers are more expendable, Zipperman said, because they did not have an possible use when considering the department’s mission of school security. The school police also possess neither grenades nor non-lethal weapons such as tear gas canisters for use with the launchers.
The rifles and grenade launchers had been in the departments possession for over a decade, while the MRAP had been acquired over this past summer. However, their existence only came to public attention last week and it was revealed by the website MuckRock following an information request.
The equipment was acquired under the Pentagon’s 1033 Program over $5 billion in surplus military equipment has been distributed to police around the country, including to many specialized school police. Several other cities in California have acquired smaller numbers of assault rifles, like San Diego has recently defended its school police’s possession of an MRAP as well.
Several groups argued that the possession of such weapons was dangerous and not worthwhile for school police. For example, the public interest group Texas Appleseed sent a public letter to the Department of Defense requesting and end to the 1033 program, saying that police possession of advanced weaponry encouraged an adversarial view towards students and would lead to abuses.
“Introducing military-grade weapons into environments in which more mundane weapons – like Tasers and pepper spray – are already misused is deeply troubling. These weapons simply have no place in educational settings,” the letter said.
The increased use of military equipment by domestic police forces has come under increased scrutiny in recent months, following the use of such equipment by police containing protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown.
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