Tons of surplus weaponry have rained down on California from the Pentagon's excess property giveaway, otherwise known as the 1033 Program, with a sizable allotment landing in San Diego County.
San Diego's police department got 76 M-16s, the Army's assault rifle, valued at $37,924, and also was given an armored truck worth $65,070, according to a spreadsheet obtained under the California public records act from the California Office of Emergency Services and posted online by MuckRock/News.
County sheriff Bill Gore received ten M-14 selective-fire automatic rifles, now used by the U.S. military primarily for competition and sniping. The allotment was valued at $1380, according to the spreadsheet.
The biggest local beneficiary of the government's largesse has been the San Diego Unified School District, which picked up a brand new Mine Resistant Ambush Protection Vehicle, worth $733,000, the disclosure says.
In a controversial move, the military loaded up on the so-called MRAPs during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a procurement that ultimately cost almost $50 billion, according to an October 2012 report by Time:
"Michael J. Sullivan, a military-procurement expert at the Government Accountability Office, told the House Armed Services Committee in 2009 that the trucks were coming off the assembly line so fast that testing and fielding had a 'high degree of overlap' resulting in 'orders for thousands of vehicles [being] placed before operational testing.'"
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has captured some of the vehicles, weighing between 14 to 18 tons, during the current fighting in Iraq, but many others have been handed out to local enforcement agencies in the United States under the excess-property program.
"It certainly does seem to be a case of overkill,” Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, told National Public Radio last week. "We think that local governments can and should demand public hearings when local police want to apply to the Pentagon to receive military equipment."
A school official here says the district is thankful for the government's handout.
"Our version is an Army version," says San Diego Unified School District police captain Joe Florentino. "The only cost to the district was about $5000 to ship it from a military storage depot in Texas. It's a new vehicle, not a hand-me-down….
“We recognize the public concern over perceived ‘militarization of law enforcement,’ but nothing could be further from the truth for School Police,” Florentino added in an email.
“[Rescue Task Force] tactics were born from the painful lessons of the 1999 Columbine tragedy, when officers waited outside for tactical teams while children and teachers were being killed inside of the school,” he continued.
“Our Rescue Vehicle provides the highest-level of protection for law enforcement to make entry under heavy fire while treating/evacuating students. We can actually fit an entire classroom of elementary students inside our Rescue Vehicle.”
The vehicle, which has been painted a dark gray by students at Morse High School, will eventually be outfitted with video cameras and $30,000 worth of medical supplies, the cost of which is to be donated.
"Now we can get in and rescue people if a shooting breaks out," Florentino says. "We can drive up to the building, cram 30 kids in, and get them to safety." The MRAP could also transport paramedics safely to the scene of school disasters to set up casualty and triage centers, he adds.
The school district will also make the vehicle available to other local law-enforcement agencies on a shared basis for use during civil disturbances and other violent incidents, as well as natural disasters.