The Aledo school district funds an army of police.
But officers will return U.S. military rifles they received on loan, a district official has said.
Aledo’s campus police have stored away the combat weapons — identified in state records as five assault rifles — borrowed under a controversial Defense Department program, Deputy Superintendent Lynn McKinney said.
Aledo and nine other Texas school districts borrowed gear under the Texas 1033 Military Surplus Program, according to KHOU in Houston, an affiliate of Star-Telegram partner WFAA-TV.
Why do Aledo’s 18 full-time and reserve campus officers need assault rifles?
Because intruders or even a student in the Parker County district might have them, argued a chief from another district.
“Police need to have the same or better equipment than the person who wants to do harm,” said Jimmy Womack, chief of the highly regarded Mansfield school district police and vice president of the San Antonio-based Texas School District Police Chiefs’ Association.
Citing the need to keep security plans confidential, McKinney and Aledo district Chief Chawn Gilliland declined to comment or confirm any details.
According to state records, the district requested four AK-type 5.54 mm rifles valued at $499 each and a 7.62 mm rifle, probably an M-14, worth $138.
McKinney wrote by email only that the district didn’t renew the loan: “We have started the process to return these weapons.”
The program has been under scrutiny since Ferguson, Mo., riots sparked national debate over police use of military gear.
Various Texas police agencies borrowed six military helicopters, more than 40 armored vehicles and a Boeing 737, but more than 180 agencies nationwide and seven in Texas have been investigated and suspended over lost or stolen weapons, particularly assault rifles.
But the more than 200 Texas school districts operating their own campus police need the same gear as other agencies in case of an “active shooter” situation, Womack said.
Mansfield officers considered applying for weapons but decided against it.
“It looks good to some chiefs, because you can get some equipment but not use the local taxpayers’ money,” said Womack, chief over 31 officers protecting 34,000 students.
But Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson has said the cost of servicing, maintaining and safeguarding federal property isn’t a good deal for taxpayers.
Aledo’s Gilliland commands seven full-time and 11 reserve officers for about 5,000 students.
Aledo officials founded the campus force in 2002 instead of contracting with county deputies, according to news archives. The far-flung district serves nine schools and includes part of Tarrant County.
(When future schools open in a new west Fort Worth development, city police can guard them, financed by the city crime district sales tax.)
Unlike in some other districts, Aledo officers not only secure campuses and investigate contraband but also patrol and write traffic and Class C misdemeanor citations, including 20 last year for using cellphones in a school zone.
Thank goodness, those rifles can be returned unused.