Florida School Police to Give Up Their Assault Weapons

| by Michael Allen

The Pinellas County School District’s police force has decided to return twenty-eight military M16 assault rifles, which came from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The decision came after outrage from parents and questions by school board members in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area.

Pinellas School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook claimed the board wasn't even aware that the assault weapons were bought until the media reported the purchase.

“Had it come back to us, I would have been able to get my questions answered and then I may or may not have supported it,” Cook told Stars and Stripes. “My biggest priority is making sure our students are safe. I might have gone along with it, but I also am not upset that they’re going back.”

Pinellas County Schools Police Chief Rick Stelljes and Superintendent Michael Grego started looking into purchasing assault weapons after the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012.

The U.S. Department of Defense has been selling (and sometimes giving away) weapons to law enforcement agencies across the U.S., including school police.

According to The Guardian, those weapons include assault rifles, grenade launchers and a land-mine-resistant vehicle (MRAP).

School police in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, Texas, Utah and California have received U.S. military equipment that was used in Iran and Afghanistan against terrorists.

“Although we’re fully certified police officers and we have a tremendous amount of talent here with seasoned officers, our focus is a little different on what we do every day in our schools and working with students with special needs," Police Chief Stelljes told Stars and Stripes.

“They decided it wasn’t going to be a good thing for our district, but I’m confident we’ll still be able to keep our students safe,” Cook added.

Sources: Stars and Stripes, The Guardian (Image Credit: Afghanistan Senior Airman Brian Ybarbo)