Thursday, September 11, 2014

NEWS RELEASE: Trustee Barnett Armored Vehicle a Misguided Priority


Trustee Barnett: Armored Vehicle a "misguided priority." Calls on District to Lease out Armored vehicle to fund replacement of Ten Old SD Unified Police Cars

San Diego -- SD Unified School Board Trustee Scott Barnett has called for turning the "misguided" acquisition of a military armored vehicle into an opportunity to fund desperately needed police car replacements.

"The acquisition of an armored vehicle by our school police is a misguided priority," said Trustee Scott Barnett.  "We have hundreds of worn out vehicles and 10 very old police cruisers protecting kids every day. These police cars each have over 130,000 miles on them. Replacing these vital assets should be our number one priority," said Barnett, who was standing in front of one (of Ten) old SD Unified police cars.

According the SD Unified a new fully equipped police cruiser costs approximately $40,000.

Calls on District to Lease out vehicle to fund replacement of 10 Old SD Unified Police Cars

"This armored vehicle is valued at over $700,000. I am proposing we lease it to a local police agency, at say $50,000 or $60,000  a year for 10 years, and use those funds to finance new SD Unified police cars," said Barnett. 
Barnett noted that after the "Ferguson controversy" it will likely be "much more difficult for local police agencies to obtain these vehicles, so we may actually have a hot commodity," said Barnett.

Barnett indicated that mutual aide agreements with other local law endorsement agencies would  ensure that the armored vehicle is "...still be available to us in an emergency."

He noted that the agreement for acceptance of the for the armored vehicle prohibits "sale" but not lease.

"Two years ago this December, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the SD school Board supported my request that we do a comprehensive school site security and staffing plan.  This plan will be coming forward at an upcoming school board meeting.  The acquisition of this armored vehicle clearly was not part of any comprehensive plan. The school board was not even aware of it," said Barnett.  "The school board should make this decision, not the school police chief," Barnett added. 

Barnett said he will ask the school board to look at his plan to fund police vehicles when it reviews the comprehensive site and security plan. 

"Is there any possibility a vehicle like this could be needed for a school emergency? asked Barnett.  "Yes, which is why we should work with other local law enforcement agencies to acquire assets which can meet ongoing needs of regional police departments, and the possible extreme need of our school district.  That is what mutual aide agreements are all about," said Barnett, who added,  "in my view the school district should not own military armored vehicles. This is not what we are about. But now that we own one, let's use it to get what we need today," said Barnett.

"I have always been a strong advocate for SD school police,"  said Barnett. "I supported the acquisition of a trained police dog, the availability of semi-automatic rifles (AR15) for officers if faced with a situation of overwhelming fire power. I urged my board colleagues year after year to exempt SD Unified Police from staffing cuts," said Barnett.  "But we should focus on acquiring what we need today to meet the needs of our students and employees."

SD Unified has approximately 525 vehicles in its "yellow bus fleet" and 350 in its "white fleet" which includes maintenance, delivery, police, and other vehicles. Many have high mileage and are in need of replacement.  For over 3 1/2 years, and as recently as last Spring's budget hearings,  Trustee Barnett has called for a vehicle depreciation plan to fund vehicle replacement.  Not replacing worn out vehicles forces the district to spend millions of dollars on vehicle maintenance which could otherwise be used to fund school site needs. To date no vehicle replacement plan has been presented to the school board.

MRAP staff memo and application