Assembly Bill 481: Military Equipment Funding, Acquisition, and Use Policy

Background

Assembly Bill 481 was authored to address the funding, acquisition and use of military equipment. This bill requires all California law enforcement agencies to “obtain approval of the applicable governing body, by adoption of a military equipment use policy, as specified, by ordinance at a regular meeting held pursuant to specified open meeting laws, prior to taking certain actions relating to the funding, acquisition, or use of military equipment, as defined.” The full text of AB 481 is available here.

Furthermore, AB 481 requires similar approval for the continued use of “military equipment” acquired by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office prior to January 1, 2022 and allows the governing body to approve the funding, acquisition, or use of military equipment within its jurisdiction only if it determines that the military equipment meets specified standards.

AB 481 Definition of Military Equipment (CA Government Code 7070)

AB 481 created CA Government Code section 7070 to define the following 15 categories of items as military equipment:

  1. Unmanned, remotely piloted, powered aerial or ground vehicles.
  2. Mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles or armored personnel carriers. However, police versions of standard consumer vehicles are specifically excluded from this subdivision.
  3. High mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV), commonly referred to as Humvees, two-and-one-half-ton trucks, five-ton trucks, or wheeled vehicles that have a breaching or entry apparatus attached. However, unarmored all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and motorized dirt bikes are specifically excluded from this subdivision.
  4. Tracked armored vehicles that provide ballistic protection to their occupants and utilize a tracked system instead of wheels for forward motion.
  5. Command and control vehicles that are either built or modified to facilitate the operational control and direction of public safety units.
  6. Weaponized aircraft, vessels, or vehicles of any kind.
  7. Battering rams, slugs, and breaching apparatuses that are explosive in nature. However, items designed to remove a lock, such as bolt cutters, or a handheld ram designed to be operated by one person, are specifically excluded from this subdivision.
  8. Firearms of .50 caliber or greater. However, standard issue shotguns are specifically excluded from this subdivision.
  9. Ammunition of .50 caliber or greater. However, standard issue shotgun ammunition is specifically excluded from this subdivision.
  10. Specialized firearms and ammunition of less than .50 caliber, including assault weapons as defined in § 30510 and §30515 of the Penal Code, with the exception of standard issue service weapons and ammunition of less than .50 caliber that are issued to officers, agents, or employees of a law enforcement agency or state agency.
  11. Any firearm or firearm accessory that is designed to launch explosive projectiles.
  12. “Flashbang” grenades and explosive breaching tools, “tear gas,” and “pepperballs,” excluding standard, service-issued handheld pepper spray.
  13. Taser Shockwave, microwave weapons, water cannons, and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs).
  14. The following projectile launch platforms and their associated munitions: 40mm projectile launchers, “bean bag,” rubber bullet, and specialty impact munition (SIM) weapons.
  15. Any other equipment as determined by a governing body or a state agency to require additional oversight.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has equipment that meets the criteria for 6 of the 15 categories (categories 1, 2, 5, 10, 12 and 14).

Requirements of AB 481

AB 481 requires each law enforcement agency's governing body to adopt a written military use policy by ordinance in a public forum by April 30, 2022, in order to continue the use of previously acquired equipment effective May 1, 2022. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office is providing the following required materials for the public:

  • The Sheriff’s Office General Order #10.08 (draft) is the department’s policy for the Funding, Acquisition and Use of Military Equipment and is available to view here. The AB 481 defined list of military equipment currently in Sheriff’s Office possession is included in the draft policy, as well as each item’s purpose, authorized use, expected lifespan and fiscal impact.
  • Establish a concern or complaint process. The Sheriff’s Office always has had a means for the public to submit questions and complaints on-line or in person. Any citizen wishing to submit a question or complaint with regards to the Sheriff’s Office use of military equipment or the draft military policy may do so online here or in person at Sheriff’s Office Headquarters or any substation.
  • Prepare an Annual Report to include the use of military equipment, any complaints received, any internal audits or other information about violations of Sheriff’s Office G.O. #10.08, the cost of such use and other similar information. This webpage will be utilized for distribution of any updates to the above materials as well as for the Annual Report. The first Annual Report will be distributed on or around May 2023.

Public Input Regarding AB 481

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has uploaded multiple documents on this website 30 days prior to a public meeting to meet the requirements of AB 481. Members of the public are encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Office at (408) 808-4400 or by contacting the Military Equipment Coordinator via email at [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

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