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School Police in Los Angeles Will Give Up Grenade Launchers

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The Los Angeles Unified School District's police department will give back three grenade launchers it received through a U.S. Department of Defense program that channels surplus military supplies to local police agencies, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

But school police there plan to keep other supplies received from the federal agency—61 rifles and a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (or MRAP) vehicle, the paper reported:

"L.A. Unified says that the M-16 automatic rifles, which were modified to semiautomatic since they were acquired in 2001, are 'essential life-saving items' and will continue to be available to trained officers. The armored vehicle will be used only under extraordinary circumstances, officials said." 

As I wrote Monday, civil rights groups have raised concerns about school systems receiving supplies from the Defense Department's 1033 program, saying tactical gear, military style equipment, and body armor would only increase concerns about how school police interact with students and how the presence of law enforcement affects school climate issues. Using media accounts, those groups identified at least 22 districts that have received surplus supplies through the program.

The 1033 program drew scrutiny after local police used surplus equipment and vehicles to confront protestors in Ferguson, Mo., last month following a police shooting of unarmed 19-year-old Michael Brown.

Other schools defended their acquisition of surplus gear in the Times story. School police in Oakland said they use a remodeled "tactical utility truck" as "an attraction at school events and parades," the paper reported.

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