San Diego Unified School District Got A Tank, For Whatever Reason
In the wake of Ferguson and the national discussion about the militarization of police that arose out the unfortunate events, you'd think that local police forces would think twice about getting new hardware. Well when you're the San Diego Unified School District's Police Department you don't have time to mull over the acquisition of an MRAP.
What's does MRAP stand for? Mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle.
That's right. Mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle.
The school district received the tank as a part of the Department of Defense's Excess Property Program, which sends surplus military equipment to local police forces at no cost. The program made headlines in recent weeks when Ferguson police, used hand-me-down armor and tanks from the program against citizens. The only cost for the school district was the $5,000 to ship it from Texas to California, according to KPBS.
In fact, Chief Ruben Littlejohn had so little time to mull over getting the MRAP that he didn't even bother notifying the school board. Although Littlejohn does not report directly to the school board and was not required to do so before the move, board trustees were pretty peeved. "The fact that you weren't informed at that time was not something that I bothered myself with at the time. But I certainly see the importance of it," Littlejohn told the board.
Littlejohn says that the tank is not about militarizing schools at all, and says that it will be painted pretty colors and used as a 'rescue' vehicle stocked with medical supplies and teddy bears (seriously). Many parents, however, are not convinced, and rather disturbed by presence of military hardware at their children's schools. Trustee Scott Barnett of the school board called the tank a "misguided priority" and a parent asked "Why does my kids' elementary school need a tank?" in The Daily Beast.
Although Andy Hinds does seem to come around on the idea of the 'SDUSD Teddy Bear Truck' in his Daily Beast column, he does suggest putting more military equipment to good use at our schools:
I appreciate the district trying to take advantage of programs that will bring assets to our schools on the cheap. I'm sure there are even more surplus military items available that might be useful. Maybe a bunch of that camouflage netting that they hide tanks under—we could tie-die it in school colors and drape it over the sports field so our kids can get out of the blazing sun at recess.