On Tuesday, the Brentwood City Council agreed in a 5-0 vote to approve an Ordinance adopting a military equipment use policy per Assembly Bill 481.
The move comes after Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly bill 481 last fall. The bill requires a reporting and authorization process for the purchase and use of certain law enforcement tools. AB 481 requires each specified California law enforcement agency (LEA) to obtain approval from the applicable governing body via adoption of a “military equipment” use policy (the Policy) by ordinance (the Ordinance), prior to the LEA funding, acquiring, or using tools identified as “military equipment.”
For Brentwood Police, they are not asking for new equipment, but rather providing an overview of equipment they already have in use and under the new law would have to make requests to the city council before replacing equipment or purchasing new equipment deemed “military”.
After the staff report and public comments, Brentwood Police Chief Tom Hansen answered questions from the public
“This is always a concern which is why the legislator passed some laws and I know some of the concerns our community has as we don’t want to see our police officers in military equipment out on the street,” explained Hansen calling it a bad thing to see. “It gives a feeling that we are being occupied by our military.”
Hansen explained the city was never going to get “tank like equipment” but some communities are using rescue vehicles which have a medical component that are seen all over the country.
“We have a strict policy on drones and are very cognizant on some of those civil right issues and civil liberty issues that people are concerned about,” said Hansen. “You also have time limits through policy where we destroy footage. When we are searching for someone, it does have recording capabilities but that is not shared with anyone. We have strict policy over that. That policy is on our website.”
Hansen also answered a question of why they need this equipment.
“We have a full functioning SWAT team that is a collateral assignment on our department. We use AR-15’s, we use diversionary equipment, we use battering rams all that fall under the definition of that. We don’t have a 50-calibery weapon, however, if we needed a 50-calibery weapon it would be nice to have one,” said Hansen. “if you are talking Al Qaeda or insurgencies, well, that is not it. I guess if a movie theater is taken over by someone that is mentally deranged or some of these scenes we see throughout our country, I think you are going to want our fully equipped SWAT team to go in an do a hostage rescue. I want to be ready and I look at it as a high paid insurance policy for the citizens of Brentwood. We have a very capable SWAT team that is equipped and well-trained right now.”
Hansen said he understood the concerns of members of the community but wanted to be prepared.
“I want to make sure that if something goes down, god forbidden, we are prepared and respond appropriately and save our citizens in the event something bad has happened.,” said Hansen. “There is bad people in this world and we are seeing more of it as we go and I’ve always appreciated the support of our council and our community to have the trust in us that we wont go overboard and become a police state or militarized police department. We are very cognizant of the optics and what that looks like and how that makes some people in our community feel. This law was passed so that departments don’t acquire all this equipment from the military and our city councils and community don’t know what they are getting. It’s a good law, its just something that will come in and report once a year.’
Councilmember Susannah Meyer sought clarification on if this report tonight was for new equipment or get permission for equipment they already had.
Captain Herbert explained nothing changes tonight and its for equipment they already had. He also highlighted within the bill, they included a lot of equipment that police use on a daily basis that simply was reclassified as “military equipment” which requires them to go before the council for approval—in the future, they will be seeking replacement rifles for models they already have.
Councilmember Jovita Mendoza said she understood the concerns but that this is equipment they already have had.
“It’s on hand if we need it and I think transparency that we have now is great so if you are wondering what they have, its all information that is available to anyone who is wondering,” said Mendoza. “I understand the people who are upset about it, I get it, but as long as I have been in Brentwood I have never seen a police officer misuse any equipment… I am not concerned about them misusing the equipment because they have had it.”
Councilmember Karen Rarey explained the public now knows what the city has and advocated for giving police the tools they need to do their job.
“I think its important that we provide our officers with the tools that are necessary to do the job that needs to be done and by hogtying them and not giving them those, it could cause further harm in our community,” said Rarey. “If there was a hostage situation at the movie theater downtown, we want to make our SWAT officers have the tools that they need to do the job that they were brought in to do.”
Mendoza added tonight was about transparency because of a state law which she called “a good thing” for transparency while stating anytime the police department wants to buy something, they are now being transparent about what they are purchasing.
Mayor Joel Bryant agreed.
“There have been incidents over the last 18-years since I have been around and on scenes that the equipment they were able to have immediately prevented the loss of life from police, protected residents and even the perpetrator because they had the proper equipment for the job at the moment,” said Bryant. “This is the same equipment and I want to make sure our residents are safe.”
The City Council then voted 5-0 to approve the policy.
According to the Staff Report:
Items deemed to be “military equipment” by AB 481 are used as a component of overall best practices for LEAs throughout the country. These tools have been tested in the field and are used by LEAs to enhance citizen safety and officer safety. The loss of these items would jeopardize the welfare of our citizens and our peace officers within the Brentwood Police Department.
The term “military equipment,” as used in AB 481, does not necessarily indicate equipment that the military has used or provided to the LEA. Pursuant to AB 481, items deemed to be “military equipment” include, but are not limited to, unmanned aerial or ground vehicles, armored vehicles, command and control vehicles, less lethal pepper balls, less lethal shotguns, less lethal 40mm projectile launchers, long-range acoustic devices, and flashbangs.
The Brentwood Police Department is committed to using the most up-to-date tools and equipment to safeguard the citizens of Brentwood. Many items deemed “military equipment” by AB 481 are employed by Brentwood Police Department and LEAs across the country to specifically reduce risk to our community members. These items provide peace officers with the ability to safely resolve volatile situations that otherwise might rise to the level of a lethal force encounter. The items at issue in this report and the accompanying Military Equipment Use Policy 708 also provide Brentwood Police Department’s peace officers with vital tools that facilitate compliance with its stringent use of force policy.
Other items deemed “military equipment” via AB 481 include foundational equipment such as rifles. These rifles allow peace officers to address lethal threats from a greater distance and with greater precision.
The Brentwood Police Department policy 708, “Military Equipment Funding, Acquisition, and Use” adheres to this new California law with respect to the approval, acquisition, and reporting requirements of military equipment. In addition, Assembly Bill 481 requires the City to:
- Publish the draft military equipment use policy to the Police Department’s website 30 days ahead of a public hearing to approve the policy. The Department’s draft policy was published on March 25, 2022, 31 days prior to this public hearing
- Publish an annual report to include each type of military equipment approved by City Council.
- Hold at least one well-publicized and conveniently located community engagement meeting within 30 days of submitting and publicly releasing the annual military equipment report
- Have the City Council annually review the military equipment use ordinance and determine whether to continue the military equipment use policy or not, or whether to disapprove a renewal of a type of military equipment, or amend the military equipment use policy if City Council determines that the military equipment does not comply with standards for approval.
In adopting the ordinance, to which the Military Equipment Policy is an exhibit, the City Council
is required by AB 481 to make the following findings, each of which the Department contends
can be made:
- The military equipment identified in the policy is necessary because there is no reasonable alternative that can achieve the same objective of officer and civilian safety
The equipment identified in Policy 708 is necessary for the Brentwood Police Department, as there are no reasonable alternative tools that law enforcement can use to achieve the same goal of both officer and civilian safety. Though the Department does not use every item of military equipment identified in Policy 708, those tools it does use are indispensable to the police work that keeps Brentwood safe and have no practical substitutes.
- The proposed policy will safeguard the public’s welfare, safety, civil rights, and civil liberties.
The policy, attached as Exhibit A to the Ordinance and identified as Brentwood Police Department Policy 708, will safeguard the public’s welfare, safety, civil rights, and civil liberties in that it will create publically-known and adopted usage guidelines and standards, which will be reviewed annually.
- If purchasing the equipment identified in the policy, the equipment is reasonably cost effective compared to available alternatives that can achieve the same objective of officer and civilian safety
The Department is not purchasing additional equipment identified in the policy.
- Prior military equipment use complied with the military equipment policy that was in effect at the time, or if prior uses did not comply with the accompanying military equipment policy, corrective action has been taken to remedy nonconforming uses and ensure future compliance.
The City had no previous military equipment policy; this finding therefore does not apply.
After hearing any public comments, if the City Council votes to waive the first reading and introduce the ordinance by title only, then as is the City Council’s practice, the second reading would be placed on the consent calendar for the City Council’s next regular meeting.
Along with seeking authorization to use preexisting equipment, the Brentwood Police Department also would like to inform the City Council and the public that it will acquire, fund, and use a new piece of equipment. In this regard, the Department plans to purchase new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) replacement rifles in the fiscal year 2022/2023.
The Police Department plans to purchase the LMT MARS-LA automatic rifle 5.56mm. The LMT MARS-LA automatic rifle features a semi-auto piston rifle system, a railed MLOK upper receiver, Ambidextrous Charging Handle, S-A Piston Bolt Carrier Group, and a 14.5″ chrome-lined Barrel.
These rifles are standard issue service weapons for our SWAT officers, and are therefore exempted from this Military Equipment Use Policy per Government Code § 7070 (c)(10). Their acquisition has been included in this staff report in an abundance of caution and in the interest of transparency.
The FY 2021/22 General Fund Operating Budget includes funding for the use of preexisting equipment. The draft 2022/23 – 2023/24 General Fund Operating Budget will include amounts for the acquisition of new equipment as detailed in the staff report. The draft 2022/23 – 2023/24 General Fund Operating Budget will be presented to the City Council for consideration and direction at the Operating Budget workshop on May 10, 2022.
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