Per state law, PPD will now report any ‘military equipment’ in its possession

The City Council on Monday also voted to create and adopt a police department policy pertaining to use of “military equipment.” State law requires city councils to create these ordinances and review and renew them annually. 

Police Chief Jeremy Bowers said equipment used by the Piedmont Police Department that falls within the definition of “military equipment” includes specialized firearms and ammunition (including assault weapons), for use against “heavily armed or armored” threats, or “medium to long-distance” threats; and 40mm projectile launchers, for less lethal force as an alternative to “deadly force” in certain situations.

Other items deemed by state law to be “military equipment” include unmanned aerial (drones) or ground (robot) vehicles, armored vehicles, command and control vehicles, pepper balls, less lethal shotguns, long-range acoustic devices, and flashbangs (grenades that produce a bright flash and a loud noise to stun and confuse).

California law (AB 481) was signed into law on September 30, 2021, requiring police agencies that have militarized equipment to define policies governing its use. Since the early 1990s, police departments have been able to acquire surplus material from the military. The increasing militarization of some large police departments in the U.S. was made visible in 2020 during the George Floyd protests and in the Ferguson protests and riots in 2014. (NPR Fresh Air, “Militarization Of Police Means U.S. Protesters Face Weapons Designed For War.”)

The bill’s sponsor, former Assembly Member David Chiu, D-San Francisco (now City Attorney), says the law does not directly ban these purchases but it does prevent agencies from buying certain types of equipment without approval from city councils, county boards of supervisors and other governing bodies.

“It asks for local law enforcement to have a conversation with local communities so that everybody knows what equipment is being used in a local community,” [Chiu] said. “The public should have a right to know when and why local law enforcement feel that they need military-caliber equipment, particularly when public dollars are being used to purchase and maintain that equipment.”

Capital Public Radio, “Sacramento Police have a new policy for using military equipment”, May 2, 2022

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