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Council approves police military equipment use policy

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

During its April 26 meeting, the city council approved an ordinance approving the military equipment use policy of the Claremont Police Department, as required by state law.

The action was required under Assembly Bill 481, the Law Enforcement and State Agencies Military Equipment Funding, Acquisition and Use Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2022.

The law “requires law enforcement agencies to obtain approval from their governing bodies before purchasing, raising funds for, or acquiring military equipment, by any means, including surplus military equipment from the federal government,” according to a staff report.

The police department is also required to seek council approval before collaborating with another law enforcement agency in “the deployment or use of military equipment within the governing body’s territorial jurisdiction or before using any new military equipment for a purpose, in a manner, or by a person not previously approved by the governing body.”

Assembly Bill 481 is intended to increase transparency and oversight about the military equipment possessed, and in use, by local and state police agencies. The law divides equipment down 15 categories, four of which apply to the Claremont Police Department. The deadline to be in compliance with the law was May 1, 2022.

This equipment was procured through both the 1033 Federal Surplus Property Program and through separate city council approvals.

The first of the four areas for which Claremont must report military equipment include: high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles, two-and-one-half-ton trucks, five-ton trucks, or wheeled vehicles that are a breaching or entry apparatus. The police department has two non-armor-equipped Humvee off-road vehicles commonly used “to traverse flooded areas, uneven surfaces and damaged roadways common in earthquakes and other natural disasters.”

During the Grand Prix fire, the department found it could not operate in the more challenging terrain in the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, and acquired the Humvees several years ago in anticipation of needing that type of vehicle in a future natural disaster. The vehicles were acquired free of cost through the 1033 program, but the city did pay to ship them to Claremont and must pay for maintenance.

The second category covers command and control vehicles that are either built or modified to facilitate the operational control and direction of public safety units. The city’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center was purchased in 2012 and designed to be Claremont’s primary Emergency Operations Center, specifically if the Claremont police station could not be used because of a natural disaster.

The cost of the command center was $1,858,623, which was paid through a series of grants including a Community Oriented Policing Services technology grant of $1,092,039.

The third category is munitions containing tear gas or oleoresin capsicum (O.C.), excluding standard, service-issued handheld pepper spray.

“The Police Department uses tools in this category to provide officers with additional resources. These force options may prevent officers from moving up the force continuum, allow for de-escalation, and have the potential to bring a dynamic situation under control without significant injury,” according to the staff report.

These include the Han-Ball Grenade CS which has three separate canisters of gas that land approximately 20 feet apart once deployed and burn for about 30 seconds.

The MK-9 pepper spray, which is a handheld device that will deliver 14 short bursts of OC with a range of 20 feet and is intended for crowd control.

The 40mm Long Range Spede-Heat CS delivers one gas canister from a 40mm launcher up to 150 yards. It is a pyrotechnic round designed specifically for crowd control outdoors with a high volume continuous burn of approximately 20 to 40 seconds.

A Skat-Shell 40mm CS is designed to deliver multiple gas canisters from a 40mm launcher 80 to 100 yards. It is also used for crowd control and has fire-producing capability.

Finally, the 40mm Muzzle Blast CS is also used for crowd control, and can also be used in tactical situations such as those involving barricaded subjects and “room clearing.”

All of the equipment in this category must have the approval of the watch commander prior to being deployed. Fate said just two officers are trained to use the chemical munitions, and that they are not to be used to disperse crowds.

Lastly, kinetic energy weapons and munitions. This includes a 40mm launcher carried in each patrol vehicle which fires the Exact Impact spin stabilized sponge nose round used by officers when confronting aggressive non-compliant individuals, allowing the officers to create distance between themselves and the individual.

“It is critically important for law enforcement to have less-lethal tools when dealing with violent individuals as a force option before having to resort to deadly force. The 40mm is a rifle-type launcher used specifically to deliver 40mm less-lethal projectile style munitions. These munitions include the Department’s primary less-lethal Exact Impact round,” according to the staff report.