After years of controversy surrounding their very existence, the Los Angeles School Police Department has forfeited the last of its extensive supply of military-grade weaponry. Authorities returned the collection to the Defense Department earlier this month, according to a letter from the school district to concerned activists obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Understandably, those same activists aren't entirely convinced and are now asking for definitive proof.
Eric Mann, director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center, is also calling for a formal apology from the district as well as a "pledge" to cease all transactions with the Defense Department, who first unloaded the baffling stash of powerful weaponry on police. "Military-grade weapons have no place on our public school campuses," Deborah Fowler, a social justice advocate, told the Times in 2014 when the department first promised to forfeit only a predetermined selection of its weapons stash. "We're simply calling for a return to common sense when it comes to the way our schools are kept safe."
On Tuesday, activists gathered at an L.A. Unified school board meeting to demand answers regarding proof of school police's apparent reversal on its generous weapons policy. Concerned citizens and activists alike, including Mann's Labor/Community Strategy Center, have worked tirelessly since 2014 to make local authorities understand that cops simply do not need weapons of this caliber. According to the Times, a definitive inventory of the school cops' inherited military weapons is not currently available.
The debate surrounding the passage of such seemingly ridiculous weaponry from the military to police departments all across the country, though it has remained a consistently heated discourse for more than a decade, achieved mainstream attention following the controversial (and often violence-promoting) tactics of police officers in Ferguson during protests spurred by the police shooting death of Michael Brown.