Multiple drones, armored vehicles, over 200 AR-15 style rifles in various models, flash bang grenades and riot control grenades  – these are just some of the weapons Anaheim police, a department routinely criticized for excessive force, have in their arsenal.

Anaheim Police’s public disclosure of the weaponry stems from a new state law requiring local police departments to create an inventory of what the state defines as military grade weaponry and a policy for their use.

Buena Park and Cypress also recently discussed their respective police department inventories. 

Last week, Anaheim City Council members voted 6-0 to approve their police department’s military equipment policy. Councilman Jose Moreno abstained from the vote, calling for more information on the item.

He said there is an increasing concern over the militarization of the police as the city tries to build up public trust in the local community.

“It’s an issue that is getting a lot of attention and it has for a lot of years. It just didn’t happen two years ago, this question of the militarization of our local police departments,” Moreno said at the April 26 meeting. “I am also very aware that this is also about public safety and about the safety of officers themselves.”

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized police use of military equipment and its use during protests. The civil rights group has said the law will bring more transparency and public accountability to law enforcement.

[Read: Does Your Local Police Department Need A Military-Grade Armored Truck?]

So far, most local elected city council members across Orange County haven’t had discussions about their respective police department’s military equipment and weapons. 

And there’s been minimal discussion about the equipment and policies for city council members who have reviewed police department inventories and policies during public meetings.

Anaheim’s police inventory and policy was originally on the consent calendar – a portion of the agenda where multiple items get passed with one vote. 

But Moreno pulled the item for discussion – the only city council member to ask questions about the weapon inventory and policy.

Moreno said he’d like to know about the safeguards to keep the weaponry from impacting people’s First Amendment rights when publicly protesting. 

Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros said the department shares Moreno’s concerns.

“They have a right to freedom of speech and our job is to make sure they can do that safely,” he told Moreno at last week’s meeting.

The policy will come back to the Anaheim City Council May 24 for a public hearing.

During the George Floyd protests of 2020, city police departments like Santa Ana faced criticism for sending out officers decked out in riot gear as protestors marched down streets.

A military vehicle drives through Anaheim during the 2020 June George Floyd protests. Credit: PABO UNZUETA, Voice of OC

The Anaheim Police Department has repeatedly and historically faced outcry for their use of force.

During the 2020 protests, the department was criticized after a police car apparently struck a demonstrator and reportedly drove off.

[Read: Criticism Mounts Around Police Response at Recent Protests in Orange County]

Data obtained from the Voice of OC last year shows Anaheim spent at least $20 million since 2010 on settling and fighting lawsuits and legal claims, including excessive force, by the public against the police department.

[Read: Lost Body Part and Wrongful Death in Custody Are Among Recent Claims Against Anaheim Police]

The department also came under fire last year following the shooting death of Brandon Lopez, the cousin of Santa Ana Councilman Johnathan Ryan Hernandez, who was chased by Anaheim officers through Santa Ana’s city limits in September and shot to death after barricading himself in his car.

Anaheim police officers shot Lopez repeatedly, mistaking a water bottle in his hand for a gun as he ran away, after forcing him out of his car with a flashbang.

[Read: Why Did Santa Ana Police Hand Over Scene to Anaheim PD the Night of Brandon Lopez Shooting?]

An ACLU report in 2017 listed Anaheim police department as the ninth deadliest police force in the 60 biggest cities of America.

To view Anaheim’s Police Department’s full inventory click here.

Buena Park

Buena Park City Council members and police officials at last week’s meeting started the process of rolling out a military equipment policy for their police department by launching a public review period of the departments’ inventory.

The council is expected to vote on the policy in June.

The department’s inventory includes a drone, an armored vehicle that costs over $250,000, stun grenades and 54 Colt AR-15 rifles.

The recently revealed inventory is similar to the arsenal of other police departments in Orange County, which are all being required by the state to review the firepower they own and create policies regulating their use.

To view Buena Park Police Department’s full inventory click here.

The disclosure of arms stems from a new state law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last September that requires local police departments across California to let residents know how many and what weapons deemed by the state to be military grade they own.

The law also requires city officials to adopt policies outlining when the equipment can be used. 

Law enforcement has until May 1 to start seeking approval of these policies.

If city councils don’t approve them, police officers won’t be allowed to continue using the military style weapons and equipment.

Like Buena Park and Anaheim, police departments across Orange County have also started to publicly reveal their own arsenal of weapons and create policies to comply with the law.

[Read: Orange County Cities Start Disclosing What Kinds of Military Equipment Are Used By Local Police]

Most of the policies defend the need for a military-style arsenal, stating they are necessary for civilian and officer safety and that there are no alternatives “to achieve these same goals.”

They also state that the weapons and equipment are reasonably cost effective.

City officials like Buena Park City Attorney Chris Cardinale also argue “military grade” is a mischaracterization of the weaponry and the equipment police are required to disclose.

“The legislation’s definition of military equipment is somewhat of a misnomer, as it includes tools and equipment that are commonly used by local law enforcement agencies to satisfy nationally recognized best practices for police procedures, and also doesn’t necessarily mean the equipment was designed for use exclusively in a military context,” Cardinale said at the April 26 council meeting.

Cypress

Cypress City Council members at their meeting last week voted 4-0 to introduce an ordinance for their police department’s military policy without much discussion. Mayor Paulo Morales, a former Cypress Police officer, was absent.

Cypress police department’s military inventory includes 47 .223 caliber patrol rifles  manufactured by Colt, Bushmaster, or Eagle Arms and 13 SWAT submachine guns.

They also share equipment like an armored rescue vehicle, a drone and a remote control robot with Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Fountain Valley and Westminster police department as part of a collaboration called the West County Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team.

To view Cypress Police Department’s full inventory click here.

During public comment at the April 26 meeting, Cypress resident Bob Youngsma defended the need for police to have these types of firepower and weaponry.

“These guys work very hard. They protect every one of us. Their job is to go home. If they need a special piece of equipment, give it to him. Don’t sit there and say no. Because they need to go home,” he said.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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