The Militarization Of Our Local Schools

On August 28, I wrote a piece questioning the militarization of our local police departments. In that article I asked some tough questions concerning the need for local law enforcement agencies to have military surplus items such as grenade launchers and mine resistant armored vehicles (the later are specifically known as a MRAP). I believe that our local Sherriff Gary Painter made a pretty good case for Midland County's need for their MRAP. From a perceived need basis, Sheriff Painter laid out the times that a heavy duty personnel carrier was needed against a heavily armed suspect. Indeed, the prior equipment that was available had proven to be too light against the heavily armed suspect. In another case, the mere presence of the MRAP being brought on scene itself ended the standoff. From a fiscal point of view, Sherriff Painter clearly laid out the fact that the MRAP assigned to the Midland County Sheriff's Office was not going to be paid for by taxpayer money.

The point that I had alluded to on August 28, but want to make crystal clear today, is that not every law enforcement agency can justify their own acquisition and maintenance of the "free" military surplus items offered by the federal government. Looking at some of the other law enforcement agencies that have received these MRAPs, I have to scratch my head and ask myself, "[w]hat in the heck justifies their need of a MRAP?" For example, in the previously mentioned article, I pointed out that the New Mexico State University Police Department has their own MRAP. And a more recent headline reveals that an elementary school in San Diego, California has just got its' own MRAP.

An elementary school with a mine resistant vehicle .... Is this some crazy idea of rounding up truants? I realize that these are both border communities; however, I cannot imagine any potential situation that any school law enforcement agency would need their very own MRAP. And I cannot imagine how any prior knowledge of this equipment would prevent any terror event. Further along this line, I cannot imagine that the aforementioned schools would ever be the only law enforcement agencies to be able to respond to another terror incident if, God forbid, another were to happen again.

I also cannot imagine how a school law enforcement agency justifies the fiscal expense in terms of dollars and manpower associated with the maintenance and training needed to keep this vehicle. Being a small business owner, I have several fiscal principles that I stick to. These principles apply for individuals, small businesses, multinational businesses and government agencies. Seeing how the schools applied any of these principles to their use of taxpayer funds for the maintenance of a MRAP is not possible. For brevity, I will mention just two.

Principle # 1. Just because you can afford it (or if it's free) does not mean that you should buy it (or accept it). There are serious implications to everything that you obtain. Some things have long term implications, some more than others. Big ticket items, especially ones from the federal government, "eat every day" which means that one day you will have to pay something for that free gift.

Principle # 2. There are differences between needs, wants and desires. Being able to correctly identify the difference between these three takes training, skill and self-discipline. Most successful people will tell you that suppressing one's short-term desires in favor of the opportunity to fulfill one's long-term needs separates the best from the rest of the pack. In the case of an elementary school, I can't imagine how any school bureaucrat sees having a MRAP fulfills the institutions long term or short term security goals. From a security point of view, the security needs for a school law enforcement agency are just different than the security needs for a small community.

With the above said, I believe that our schools need to be made safe from any potential threat. I don't have a problem with armed security in our schools. And, I don't have a problem with trained school personnel with carrying a concealed weapon. However, I am concerned about schools having equipment that they cannot justify when educators' salaries could be enhanced. Let's hope our schools here in Texas don't follow the examples set by New Mexico and California.

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