Prompted by the controversy over the type of equipment the Ferguson police department used during protests over the death of Michael Brown, news organizations across the country started requesting information about a U.S. Department of Defense program that provided police departments with defense equipment.
Why should education reporters care?
Some of those police departments happen to belong to school districts, colleges and universities.
Muckrock, an invaluable resource for journalists of all kinds, requested the agency-by-agency data from all 50 states. It has gathered information from 26 states so far. Five states have rejected the requests. Another four said they do not have inventory spreadsheets.
If you look at the downloadable spreadsheet, or go to your individual state’s online database, you’ll find some of the acquisitions seem reasonable enough. For example, Missouri-based Lincoln University’s police department received computers, monitors and laptops. Some are more puzzling than anything – why would the Fulton County, Ga., school system’s police force need 15 sleeping bags?
But Florida International University and Texas Southern University received “mine-resistant” vehicles. Los Angeles Unified School District received grenade launchers. In fact, MuckRock highlights the armament in California’s school systems.
Politico Pro’s Allie Grasgreen looked at the issue of colleges and universities acquiring these types of equipment. KPCC noted Compton Unified School District’s acquisition of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.
EWA’s Topics page on School Climate & Safety offers some insights on subjects such as these.