SCC Sheriff Military Equipment



General Talking Points:

  • Local police have effectively been stockpiling wartime arsenals, with low-income people and people of color bearing the brunt of this militarization over the years. Much military equipment is a force multiplier, and so it multiplies racial disparities in uses of force. (The Center for Policing Equity found that Black people were subjected to force 4 times as often as White people by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office.)


  • Despite claims by the Sheriff’s Department, the military equipment described in the order are not “deescalation tools”. In many cases, these weapons have the opposite effect, for both officers and community members, leading to escalation and even killing by police.


  • Several studies show that the acquisition and use of military-grade equipment by civilian law enforcement agencies does not reduce crime or attacks on officers, while it does contribute to substantial community fear. While Santa Clara County has been having conversations about community public safety and building trust in the community over the past couple of years, the acquisition and deployment of military equipment does the opposite of that: it is not community-based public safety initiatives, it is not building trust.


Concerns with General Order #10.08:

  • There are multiple instances in the general order where the phrase “including, but are not limited to” is used before listing situations where the use of various equipment will be permitted. The phrase “not limited to” makes the list of authorized uses meaningless, since it suggests that authorized uses are limitless. The vagueness of these statements will make it difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether a particular use of the equipment complies with the policies.
  • The order should specify what uses are not authorized. 
  • The order should include language stating that “all uses not authorized by this policy are prohibited.”
  • AB 481 prohibits the use of chemical agents, such as tear gas, and kinetic impact rounds in crowd control situations, except “if the use is objectively reasonable to defend against a threat to life or serious bodily injury,” which is a high standard. The general order does not appear to explicitly prohibit the use of such chemical agents in situations where there is not a threat to life or serious bodily injury, which it should.
  • Page 14 and 21 of the general order describes using chemical agents and projectiles in “riot/crowd control situations.” Is the term “riot” or “crowd control situations” defined in the order? What protections are in place to prevent the use of such equipment against peaceful protesters?


Other Questions: 

  • Is it ever appropriate to use military equipment against residents, and if so, when?
  • For planned uses of equipment, what alternatives will be considered?
  • For planned uses of equipment, what information must be gathered beforehand? Does the information gathered address not only risks to officers, but risks to community members, including trauma and property damage, from deployment of the equipment?
  • Does the use policy govern when weapons or equipment are deployed, or only when force is used? AB 481 requires policy governing all uses, not just uses of force.
  • How will authorized uses distinguish between subjects who are unarmed, armed with a firearm, or with another object?
  • Given how even the display of military equipment can be interpreted as aggressive, how will communication with people with mental health issues or non-English speakers be conducted?
  • Does the use policy identify “mechanisms to ensure compliance with the military equipment use policy, including which independent persons or entities have oversight authority,” as required by AB 481?