September 19, 2014 (San Diego)—You won’t be seeing an armored vehicle on San Diego Unified School District campuses after all. The District has decided to return a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, or MRAP, that had been donated by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The District had planned to use the vehicle to respond to emergencies such as school shootings. But in the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of an anarmed teen, a national spotlight has been cast on use of armored vehicles by law enforcement and now, school districts.
Superintendent Cindy Marten issued statement Thursday, indicating that “Some members of our community are not comfortable with the district having this vehicle. If any part of our community is not comfortable with it, we cannot be comfortable with it.”
Some members of the San Diego Unified School District board had indicated they were unaware of the district’s acquisition of the armored vehicle before media reports surfaced. The vehicle, valued at over $700,000 was donated to the district by the Department of Defense through a grant, though the district did have to pay $5,000 to transport it to San Diego.
The district’s Chief of School Police, Rueben Littlejohn, earlier said he thought the MRAP would be an asset to the district in an emergency, UT San Diego reported.
The decision to return the vehicle, valued at more than $700,000, was praised by school board trustee Scott Barnett, who last week announced his opposition to the idea.
School Board member Scott Barnett reacted to then news, stating he believed Superintendent Marten made the right decision to return the vehicle. “I’m glad we will not have a military armored vehicle as part of our fleet,” he said.
Rueben Littlejohn, chief of the district’s School Police Department, said earlier that he thought the vehicle, known as an MRAP, would be an asset to the district in an emergency. But he noted that public feelings about the perceived militarization of law enforcement have changed after the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown and the heavy use of military-grade vehicles and equipment by police in response to protesters.
“Public sentiment regarding the use of excess military equipment by law enforcement agencies since the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., has pointed to the need to be more sensitive to perception,” Littlejohn said in a statement issued by the district. “The value that this defensive tool would bring cannot exceed the value of retaining the public’s trust, confidence and perceptions of how we will protect our students.”