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San Diego Unified School District gets…an MRAP?!

What kind of justification was used to warrant a school district being given an MRAP, and who in their right mind thinks this sort of thing is ‘OK’?

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News that San Diego Unified School District has acquired an MRAP, or mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, is adding a new facet to discussions about the practice of giving surplus military equipment to civilian agencies.

A rendering of the San Diego Unified School District's new MRAP shows it in white, with red ambulance markings. When district police received it, the vehicle was military tan.

A rendering of the San Diego Unified School District’s new MRAP shows it in white, with red ambulance markings. When district police received it, the vehicle was military tan.

The six-wheel Caiman MRAP has an official value of around $733,000. But the San Diego school district paid only about $5,000 to transport it, according to inewsorce.org, a website that partners with NPR member station KPBS.

As inewsource’s Joe Yerardi reported:

“The school district got the MRAP for free as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Excess Property Program. The program, commonly referred to as the 1033 Program, sends unneeded military equipment like weapons and body armor to local police forces for no cost.”

The program was in the news recently for its role providing law enforcement agencies with heavy armored equipment like that rolled out by police in Ferguson, Mo., to confront demonstrators.

READ: Reading, Writing, M16s, and MRAPS: US education getting schooled over militarization

A day after the San Diego story came out, school board trustee Scott Barnett called the move a “misguided priority,”saying the vehicle should be leased to police agencies. Barnett suggested the funds from a long-term lease could pay for new police cars. And he said the school board hadn’t been notified about the acquisition.

The school district has released two renderings of what the MRAP might look like after its tan military color is painted over. In one version, it's police blue; another depicts it as more of an ambulance, white with a red cross.

The school district has released two renderings of what the MRAP might look like after its tan military color is painted over. In one version, it’s police blue; another depicts it as more of an ambulance, white with a red cross.

The day before Barnett addressed the issue, San Diego Unified School District Police Chief Ruben Littlejohn held a news conference to say the MRAP isn’t a tank, which early reports had compared it to. He also said it’s not a sign of new militarization in schools.

“There will be medical supplies in the vehicle. There will be teddy bears in the vehicle,” Littlejohn said. “There will be trauma kits in the vehicle in the event any student is injured, and our officers are trained to give first aid and CPR.

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