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San Diego Unified: New MRAP Is Not A Tank

Aired 9/11/14 on KPBS News.

San Diego Unified School District's Police Chief Ruben Littlejohn says having the vehicle doesn't reflect a militarization of the educational system.

San Diego Unified School District

An image shows the MRAP was painted tan when it was first received by the San Diego Unified School District.

San Diego Unified School District

An "after" image of San Diego Unified School District's MRAP shows the vehicle will be painted white with red crosses.

While some may call San Diego Unified's recently acquired military vehicle a tank, the school district says otherwise, and quickly called a news conference to say so.

KPBS media partner inewsource reported Tuesday the district received the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle — or MRAP, as the Marine Corps calls it — through a U.S. Department of Defense program. It's known as the 1033 program, which lets the federal government provide surplus military equipment to law enforcement. All San Diego Unified had to pay was the just-less-than $5,000 shipping cost.

At a Wednesday news conference held in response to media coverage of the vehicle, San Diego Unified School District Police Chief Ruben Littlejohn said it doesn't mean the military is moving into San Diego's education system.

"It's not police militarizing schools," he said at the school's district headquarters in Normal Heights.

The MRAP doesn't have any weapons capabilities — they were all removed before the district even saw the vehicle. The vehicle was not on display at the news conference, but the district provided images showing what it looked like when it was first received and how it will be transformed. The district is modifying and painting the vehicle at its Kearny Mesa transportation facility.

Littlejohn says it will be used as a rescue tool.

"There will be medical supplies in the vehicle. There will be teddy bears in the vehicle. 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," he said.

Littlejohn added that the district is seeking donors to provide the supplies.

The district said the rescue vehicle is one of the ways it is responding to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and preparing itself for potential disasters in the future.

A San Diego Unified spokeswoman said upkeep for the vehicle is estimated at $500 a year.


Video Of SD Unified's MRAP

Hear the hum of the engine in this video of San Diego Unified School District's newly acquired mine-resisitant ambush protected vehicle.

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