Less than a year after the ACLU released a pressing report on the dangerous militarization of American police, law enforcement agencies in California—including school police—continue to use military-grade equipment against the communities they are supposed to protect.
The Los Angeles School Police—which are stationed at schools throughout LAUSD—last year agreed to return three grenade launchers obtained as part of a controversial federal program that provides excess military equipment to police departments. After public pressure from the Community Rights Campaign (CRC) and other advocates, LAUSD also transferred a military MRAP vehicle it obtained through the program to a city in San Bernardino. But officials have still declined to return dozens of rifles.
The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) has repeatedly questioned the usefulness of such programs, especially in the wake of police response to protests in Ferguson, MO, and we believe LAUSD ought to return all of the military equipment obtained through that program and to release an inventory of all military-grade equipment it has otherwise acquired or purchased.
Those concerns were raised during a recent music video shoot for the artist/activist Matre's song "Listen," which ACLU SoCal attended along with CRC, Youth Justice Coalition, Street Poets Inc., educators and other community partners who have long rallied in support of LAUSD students. Matre plans to release the video this spring as yet another way to focus attention on the need for fundamental reform in how LAUSD approaches student discipline.
While many students may never see the weapons provided through the federal program known as 1033, we remain concerned that many youth face a gauntlet of metal detectors, armed police, invasive searches and prison-like surveillance at schools around the district.
Victor Leung is staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. Follow ACLU_SoCal.