Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 481 back in September of 2021, now police departments across the state are on a deadline to get approval for the use and purchase of military equipment.
This past Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo City Council approved the use of military equipment that the San Luis Obispo Police Department is already using, but some community members had questions.
“I like to start with this, why? The officers explained what the program is but they didn’t explain anything beyond protecting the community or ensuring public safety no statistics no facts were provided for you all today as to why this should be adopted,” said public comment participant Ethan Gutterman.
Gutterman was just one of the community members who spoke out at Tuesday's city council meeting urging council members to not approve a list of about 15 military equipment items currently being used by SLOPD.
“It just seems excessive and unnecessary and it seems like the police are attempting to fight this war against the civilian population which is not a way we should go about things," said Cal Poly student Owen Lavine.
Lavine also attended the meeting and said he experienced first-hand the use of tear gas in Los Angeles during the protests over George Floyd's death.
“I mean just as in LA they used tear gas on the protesters here in San Luis Obispo and nine out of 10 that stuff will be used on the civilian population and I’m not willing to make that trade," said Lavine.
On June 1st, 2020, San Luis Obispo police officers used tear gas to disperse a crowd of protesters during a Black Lives Matter rally. When asked about the incident, SLOPD Lieutenant Mickel responded, “it’s one of the tools that we still have and we use it responsibly and there's also guidelines on using tear gas or any type of chemical agent and that also came out on another bill, AB 78.”
Police say any future purchases of new equipment or additional equipment would need city council approval and that the goal of the bill is transparency.
“We have an open-door policy, the best thing is communication for us. We’re going to talk to you about anything and also you have the opportunity if you see equipment being used inappropriately to file a complaint and we have a compliant process that we will report to council also," said Lieutenant Mickel.
Police also must show how the equipment is used along with a description. The equipment list is posted on the department’s website for public view.
After this initial approval, SLOPD will have to provide an annual report to the city council on the use of this equipment and any additional purchase of equipment. The report will go out to community members 30 days prior to the city council meeting for public comment.