Close to 200 AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles, 200 flash bang grenades, thousands of pepper balls, two armored personnel carriers and a host of drones.
These are just some of the weaponry deemed by California officials as military equipment that the Anaheim Police – a department that has historically been criticized for excessive force – has in their arsenal and is publicly disclosing to comply with state law.
Anaheim City Council members unanimously voted at their Tuesday meeting to approve the department state mandated military equipment policy.
Councilman Jose Diaz criticized the state’s description of the guns and munitions as military equipment arguing that these were just “tools of the trade” for police.
“These are tools just like a carpenter needs a hammer or an electrician needs a pair of pliers. These are tools to protect police officers and to protect us the residents. That’s all,” he said. “They have always used those tools.”
Police Chief Rick Armendariz said none of the weaponry was acquired from the military or the U.S Department of Defense.
Council member Carlos Leon said it made sense for Anaheim to have military-grade police equipment.
“Anaheim is unique in many ways – one of them obviously being that we’re a target and we have to be prepared for anything and everything, especially having Disneyland, the Stadium, the Honda Center, all these venues that obviously bring a lot of visitors.”
The police department is looking to buy two new drones – one of which can fly indoors – as well as more flashbang grenades, chemical agents, bean bag rounds, and a kinetic breaching tool that officers can use for forced entry, according to a staff report.
They also want to create a “remote breaching program” that uses explosives to break through doors, windows or buildings for trained officers on the SWAT team.
The disclosures are required by a new law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed last September, requiring California police departments to divulge all equipment they deem “military grade” – and ask for permission from their respective city council at least 30 days in advance before they make any future purchases.
Last year, police departments had to disclose their equipment for the first time under the law.
This year, however, is the first year that law enforcement agencies had to track and disclose when and how it was used.
The result has been community meetings and public discussions in cities up and down California – about whether a .50 caliber rifle or military-grade armored truck should be part of an officer’s toolbelt for ensuring community safety.
Some officials in OC have pointed in the past to the 1997 North Hollywood shootout as the need for such weapons and equipment because officers were outgunned at the time.
The shootout left about a dozen police officers wounded after a 44-minute gun battle between two gunmen wearing body armor and armed with AK47s against police outside a Bank of America. It ended with both gunmen dead – the only deaths in the gun battle.
In July, Voice of OC reported that in most OC cities, the equipment went untouched throughout the year.
At the OC Sheriff’s Dept., which serves as the police department for 15 of the county’s 34 cities, officials say most of these weapons were used on people at the county jails, for “crowd control” and “suspect apprehension.”
In 2022, the Anaheim police department used their drones over 700 times and their armored vehicles close to 50 times, according to the 2022 military annual equipment report.
There were 56 tactical response operations with some of them involving the SWAT team last year and there were no formal complaints regarding use of the military-grade equipment, according to the same report.
Sgt. Jon McClintock, the police’s public information officer, said that the armored vehicles are mostly used at events.
“They’re most often seen at demos and national night out and those types of events where we invite people to come and take pictures and see what we are using,” he said.
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