San Diego schools get armored vehicle

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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Unified School District has acquired a 14-ton armored war vehicle it plans to use as a search and rescue vehicle.

The M-RAP was acquired from central Texas through a government program for free after school police officers submitted a request to have it donated.

“It was provided to the district at no cost,” said Ursula Kroemer with the San Diego Unified School District. “We will have the red cross insignia on it so people will know it’s a safe haven on wheels.”

The US Marine Corps trained school resource officers on how to drive and use the M-RAP, and before it arrived to San Diego it was completely stripped of any gun or missile power.

“It can house a classroom of kids and get them out of harms way,” said Chief Rueben Little John with the San Diego Unified School District Police Department. “It’s not going to be used to destroy in any way. It’s for rescuing and searching for students.”

Officers say in the event of a school shooting, flood, wildfire or earthquake the M-RAP can be used to pull kids to safety. The inside of the vehicle will be filled with donated medical supplies to treat injured victims.

“We are told as adults to run fast, hide quietly and fight hard. Students can’t do that,” said Little John.

The tank normally costs $700,000, but again was acquired for free. It cost the district $5,000 to transport it from Texas, and school officials it will cost less than $1000 a year to maintain the M-RAP which is currently being housed at the bus yard in Kearny Mesa.


  • davepretty

    The program the SDUSD got the armored vehicle from is the 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.

    Six other local agencies also received equipment through the program:
    • The San Diego Police Department received 77 M-16A1 assault rifles and an armored truck.
    • The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department received 10 M14 battle rifles.
    • The San Diego Unified Port District Harbor Police received one infrared illuminator.
    • The El Cajon Police Department received 10 M-16A1 assault rifles.
    • The Escondido Police Department received 25 M-16A1 assault rifles, four M14 battle rifles and an armored truck, among other equipment.
    • The National City Police Department received 17 M14 battle rifles.

    “The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”-James Madison

    • This is stupid

      Awesome, just what we need a lightly trained and lightly educated police force with enough weapons to fight off a foreign invasion. I mean over the past 100 years there’s been a huge need for armored vehicles and machine guns in San Diego, I can see why they got them.

  • DavidM

    What an incredibly bizarre – no, stupid – and shortsighted acquisition by school police. Claiming that it was free does nothing to negate the militaristic thinking of officers who thought this could ever be a good idea. Who is responsible for the cost to repaint the vehicle into a “rescue” vehicle instead of an “assault” vehicle? Who is responsible for putting gas into a tank where the engine gets a whopping 3 miles per gallon? Officers must be trained to use it, and practice knocking walls to rescue trapped students. Who pays their salaries for training? Who pays for ongoing maintenance on a unique engine? How many times in the last 20 years have School Police said, “geez, I wish we had an armored vehicle right now; that sure would be handy”?
    The purported rationale for the acquisition is Columbine, in which 800 officers sat outside the building while students and a teacher bled to death because the police mindset is “secure the perimeter” before “clearing the building.” This machine does nothing to change that mindset. They can drive right up to the edge of the building; great. But they are not going to enter that building unless they know it is safe for their officers to get out.
    School District Police praise themselves for successful community based policing, yet then celebrate themselves again for getting an armored vehicle which, they assure us, would be used for “rescues” and not appear in the event of a student protest, or a public protest near a school. Are we really to believe that because Chief Littlejohn says it’s only for rescue that it will not appear at a public demonstration, or even a high school football game between arch-rival teams? Having a new toy, does anyone really think they will not find a way to use it beyond rescue?

  • Mike

    Free… Not even the military can drive or maintain these without extensive training. Training costs and the parts are expensive!

    Fit an entire classroom….maybe a small class of 8 and you don’t just hop in you climb in and fall out.

    Run through a full on forest fire… not hardly these vehicles are not rated for this and it is a stretch of the truth as they are not equipped with a closed circuit atmosphere but they do have climate control and chemical air filtration that could work to filter out tear gas used during riots and keep the passengers comfy cozy.

    I agree to reutilize equipment as the military gets rid of utilitarian vehicle and passenger transport vehicles like busses all the time but this is a very specialized and impractical vehicle designed for war.

    In my opinion it was not specifically or exclusively for the school but instead for the sheriffs department who would use it to break up demonstrations.

    If you have any doubt look at the sticker on the side and who do you think will really use it? A teacher? A school bus driver? Or a Sheriff Department responding to an incident like the riots in Missouri?

    Trust me many military items need to stay out of the hands of law enforcement as it sends the wrong message to citizens and can be mistakenly abused.

    • DavidM

      Or an, “armored war tank.” Are there war tanks that aren’t armored? There’s a problem with reporters who don’t know what they are writing about merely guessing when they string words together. I agree; sloppy reporting.

  • Travis

    Also use of the Red Cross is a violation of federal law and the Geneva Convention might want to look that kind of stuff up! 18 USC 706

    • DavidM

      The surplus property program, under various names, is actually federal, not state (thank you President Obama?) and actually began in 1970 (thank you President Nixon?) but was expanded during the heyday of the War on Drugs in the 80’s (thank you President Reagan?) and was put in the current form in 1990 (thank you President Bush?). The glut of materials after the winding down of Iraq and the “fear of terror” led to the current type of material available (thank you Presidents Bush and Obama?)
      Most of the support for these programs comes from conservatives. Even after Ferguson, conservative commentators still defend the program’s existence as they condemn the use of the equipment.

      • wes

        It is a little hard to say they come from conservatives when the left are giving this stuff away. It was not until 2009 when police forces stated get MRaps for urban warfare

        • DavidM

          That’s because surplus M-RAPs didn’t exist until 2009 and the draw down in Iraq.
          It’s not “conservatives” or “liberals” it’s “politicians.” The program was approved by multiple Congresses as well, generally based on the politician-created fear of crime. Those same politicians who wanted to be seen as fighting crime are now the same ones lamenting that the military hardware shows up at public protests. It’s not that hard to think when you govern, but most just think as far as the next sound bite. The never think about the consequences of militarizing police.

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