Recent stories on California cities that are divesting themselves of federally provided surplus military equipment are more of an anomaly than a trend. While San Jose and Davis may be dumping battlefield designed mini-tanks, the San Diego School District cops are pretty damned proud of their new MRAP (Mine Resistant Armor Protected) vehicle. The U.S. government’s 1033 Program has been drawing plenty of belated criticism in the aftermath of the militarized police response to unrest in Ferguson, MO, but it is still providing military grade equipment to civilian agencies. The police departments are one thing, but what in the hell does a school district need such a vehicle for?
The Guardian, in a story entitled “Tanks at the school gates? San Diego school police acquires its own MRAP” reports:
The San Diego Unified School District Police Department has acquired its own vehicle, known as a MRAP, and expect it to be operational by October.
“I can totally see people thinking ‘Oh, my God. Are they going to be rolling armoured vehicles into our schools and what the hell’s going on?’” Captain Joe Florentino told local media.
Police intended to use it to rescue children – be it from rampaging gunmen or natural disasters, he said. “When we have an emergency at a school, we’ve got to get in and save kids.”
An entire classroom of 30 to 40 elementary students could be evacuated “during every trip into a danger zone”, said Florentino. “Our idea is: ‘How can we get in and pull out a classroom at a time of kids if there’s an active shooter? If there’s a fire (or) if there’s an earthquake, can we rip down a wall?’ Stuff like that.”
It will be painted with a red cross, to evoke an ambulance, and hold medical supplies, the captain added.
While Captain Joe may be engaging in the standard fear-mongering and scare tactics – whenever an official invokes “the children”, a torrent of hogwash is sure to follow – it is still a military vehicle that has no place in a civilian area. It matters not that it is going to be “painted with a red cross” or painted with pink and purple polka dots, it belongs elsewhere. Some school District officials are questioning the wisdom of the acquisition of the military machinery. According to a story on the website for the San Diego Union Tribune, “School official questions need for truck”:
A San Diego Unified school board trustee raised questions Thursday about the district’s latest acquisition — a mine-resistant armored truck — after learning about the government-donated vehicle on social media this week.
Scott Barnett said the military-grade truck has no place in a school district and should be leased out to other agencies to raise money to replace its aging campus police cars. Barnett also expressed concern that the Army truck was acquired without consulting the school board or the public.
“The symbol of having an armored vehicle in the district is not the message we want to send to schools,” he said. “But we have it now. Can we leverage that vehicle to fund something we really need — new patrol cars?”
The fetish for all things military in San Diego is understandable being that it is a huge military city with the Navy and Marines both having bases there and this thing belongs on one – not on the streets. It is notable that San Diego was recently the scene of a SWAT invasion of a local college campus when a staff member’s black umbrella was mistaken for a gun and some paranoid (probably a liberal) called in a school shooter threat.
There is some hope that the endless flow of war zone equipment to Main Street America will be cut off soon although it won’t be through legislation. With Obama’s declaration of war on the Islamic State or ISIS, which will soon expand into the long gestating clash of civilizations against Islam there will be so many foreign battle zones across the Middle East that the government won’t have enough MRAPS to send to the locals.