The LBPD has used military-grade equipment for years, but last night marked the first time city council approval was needed thanks to AB 481, which Governor Gavin Newsom signed in September 2021.
The law requires each state law enforcement agency to make public an annual inventory of any equipment it uses that was originally designed for the military, along with its policy for the use of the equipment. To continue using the equipment, these documents had to obtain the approval of the governing body of the department, in this case the city council.
The LBPD will use these weapons and equipment “in accordance with state and federal laws to protect life and property, and to serve all people with respect, dignity, and in a constitutional manner,” according to a staff report by LBPD Chief Wally Hebeish. . The report also notes that the department has not acquired any military equipment from the Department of Defense’s Law Enforcement Support Program “in recent years.”
Councilman Rex Richardson, acting as deputy mayor in the absence of Mayor Robert Garcia, noted that the city council had never previously discussed the military arming of the LBPD in a public forum in the 12 years. where he was in city government. Although he said he anticipated the issue would “become more complex over time”, he noted that AB 481 had “done its job” in bringing transparency to the issue.
The inventory of the LBPD approved by the city council shows that the department already has, among other things, three armored trucks, several drones and robots and 125 high-powered rifles intended for use in various situations, such as confronting hostile suspects or allowing SWAT officers to fire sniper rounds from afar. Hebeish and council member Daryl Supernaw noted that the LBPD’s Bearcat armored vehicle was deployed during a standoff in Los Altos on Sunday.
Twelve members of the public spoke out against the board approving the LBPD inventory. A resident, identified as Eric G, noted that many of the weapons listed in the inventory were “designed to subdue the masses”. Another resident, Josh DeLeon, said: “We are not invaders, we are your neighbors.
Jennifer Tu, the Philadelphia-based Ristad Fellow of the American Friends Service Committee, has been tracking AB 481 since before Newsom signed the bill. Ahead of the board’s vote, she said the law provides an “opportunity for increased transparency and accountability for all communities in California.”
While disclosures of military equipment inventories are valuable, Tu said the real accountability will come next year, when the LBPD begins filing annual reports on the department’s use of its weapons and military equipment. Reports will detail training, storage and maintenance costs associated with inventory.
Through these annual reports, the public will see in more detail how the LBPD spends a good portion of its taxpayer-funded budget, Tu said. The first report will be due in a year, although nothing prevents the city council from requesting one sooner, according to Tu.
Two of the most powerful weapons listed in the LBPD inventory are a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle – intended for use in stopping a moving vehicle when no other options are available – and two NATO FN America M240B rifles 7.62×51 mm, which are “medium”. machine guns” primarily used by US soldiers in battlefields such as Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the manufacturer.
The LBPD acquired the weapons for use in particularly dangerous and extreme events such as acts of terrorism, according to an LBPD spokesperson.
According to the LBPD, only four SWAT officers are trained and certified to use the Barrett rifle and FN America pistols. None of them have yet been used in action, according to the LBPD.
The inventory also includes a detailed tally of “less lethal rounds”, such as the 40 millimeter foam projectiles that the LBPD used extensively during the 2020 protests following the killing of George Floyd. A journalist was hit in the neck by such a blow and had to be treated in hospital.
The LBPD has a policy prohibiting “bias-based policing” and “racial profiling,” Hebeish added in the report on how the equipment is used.
The council vote was originally scheduled to take place on July 5, but city council members agreed to delay it because just days before the meeting, the police department added an item to the inventory, which the department released for the first time in May, according to City Attorney Charles Parkin.
On June 29, the LBPD added the Strongwatch mobile video surveillance system. Also called “Freedom On-The-Move”, it’s basically a fancy camera mounted in the bed of a GMC Sierra pickup truck.
The system is capable of streaming live video to a command center so police can “monitor a situation in real time and coordinate responses to threats to public safety,” according to the LBPD’s revised inventory. The surveillance system was reportedly used to monitor a Black Lives Matter Long Beach protest march in July 2020.
In 2021, the ACLU published a national accounting of military equipment held by police departments. He revealed that the country’s departments have more than 60,000 military-style rifles and 1,500 combat vehicles and tanks.
City council must vote on whether LBPD can use military equipment