SJPD 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.)
  • Military equipment is not a deescalation tool. 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.  The acquisition and deployment of military equipment are not community-based public safety initiatives; it is not building trust.


Concerns with the Military Equipment Use Policy:

  • The phrase “exigent circumstances” is used several times in different contexts. What is the definition of “exigent circumstances”?
  • In the description of authorized uses of remotely powered ground vehicles (tactical robots), command vehicles, and Long Range Acoustic Device, the phrase “include but not limited to” or some variant of it is used. 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 policy.
  • The policy should specify what uses are not authorized.
  • The policy should include language stating that “all uses not authorized by this policy are prohibited.”
  • AB 48 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 Military Equipment Use Policy should incorporate these new state limitations, contained in AB 48, on the use of chemical agents (section 11) and tear gas (section 12b).
  • In the description of Long Range Acoustic Device, the policy states, “The high-pitched tone may be used for crowd control when deemed necessary by a Command Officer. The use of the high-pitched tone will be documented as a use of force.” What conditions are “deemed necessary”? What protections are in place to prevent this usage 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?