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Sac County's (unethical and illegal) military equipment use policy

The background for this piece is pulled from an amazing toolkit put together by Decarcerate Sacramento and the Anti Police Terror Project for making public comment on Sac Sheriff's Military Equipment Use Policy - thank you to these amazing organizations

*to take a closer look at notes on specific equipment (including drones, robots, and assault rifles) refer to the toolkit linked above

Agenda Item 52 of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Meeting on 9/27/22 was in regard to the Sacramento Sheriff Department's Military Equipment Use Policy - the policy that is supposed to outline the parameters for said equipment usage. Community members were asked to call or write in to urge the BOS to reject the proposal from the Sheriff Department.


The proposed policy was out of compliance with AB 481 and incredibly harmful to our community.


No decision was made on 9/27 and item was continued to 10/4.


10/4 MEETING OUTCOMES:


At the 10/4 BOS meeting the Sheriff's Military Equipment Use policy was approved.

*the vote was 4-1 with Supervisor Kennedy being the only "no" vote


Aside from one change requested by Supervisor Nottoli requiring the collection of demographic data related to equipment use (while also all but promising the Sheriff more money for it), the policy passed through without any of the changes outlined by Decarcerate Sacramento and APTP.


BACKGROUND & DETAILS RELATED TO 9/27 PROPOSAL

  • Sacramento County’s proposed policy had a major deficiency: it failed to define authorized uses for its militarized equipment, as required by the new law AB481.

    • AB481 requires that every piece of military equipment must describe both the purpose and the authorized use. That’s authorized use, not authorized user. The policy must describe under what circumstances a weapon is authorized for use.

    • This must be remedied before the Use Plan is approved.

  • This bill also requires the creation of mechanisms to ensure compliance with the military equipment use policy, including which independent persons or entities have oversight authority, and what legally enforceable sanctions are put in place for violations of the policy.

    • Nowhere in their policy did they state anything about who the independent oversight body would be or how it would be put to use.

    • The Community Review Commission and the Inspector General, both created to provide that kind of oversight to the Sheriff, should be named as the independent oversight bodies and the policy should include that and how to get into contact with them.

    • There were no mechanisms on how to address complaints, concerns, or even questions, and the policy should outline how to do this in detail.

    • This must be remedied before the Use Plan is approved.

  • There is another new law, AB 48 (not 481 but 48), that restricts the use of chemical agents and kinetic energy weapons (tear gas, rubber bullets and other “less lethal” weapons) for crowd control, except “if the use is objectively reasonable to defend against a threat to life or serious bodily injury,” which is a high standard. The County Board of Supervisors should incorporate these limitations from AB 48 into the proposed military equipment policy.

    • The proposed policy must comply with AB48’s ban of chemical and impact weapons (tear gas and rubber bullets) for crowd control.

  • DOES NOT DETAIL FUNDING MECHANISMS & ACQUISITION PROCESS REQUIRED BY AB 481

    • Example: The Sacramento Police Department is required to “seek council approval for military equipment, including, but not limited to, applying for a grant, soliciting or accepting private, local, state, or federal funds, in-kind donations, or other donations or transfers.” The Department has authority to apply for funding prior to obtaining council approval in the case of exigent circumstances. The Department shall obtain council approval as soon as practicable, and before the equipment is purchased, acquired, or received.

      • This kind of language should be added. If the Sheriff can just order 10% of weapons stockpile over and over again (as was currently stated), that shows there is no oversight of this. If anything has been depleted then that means we need more oversight, not less.

  • DOES NOT DETAIL ANNUAL REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

    • All the Sheriff provides is that it will submit an annual report, but provides no information or details on what the report is required to include.

      • This report should include demographic data of who it was used on, in what area of Sacramento, why it was used, and a detailed breakdown of operation costs.

  • According to the law: The “Governing Body” (Sacramento County Supervisors) should only approve a military equipment use policy if it determines all of the following:

    • (A) The military equipment is necessary because there is no reasonable alternative that can achieve the same objective of officer and civilian safety.

    • (B) The proposed military equipment use policy will safeguard the public’s welfare, safety, civil rights, and civil liberties.

    • (C) If purchasing the equipment, the equipment is reasonably cost effective compared to available alternatives that can achieve the same objective of officer and civilian safety.

    • (D) Prior military equipment use complied with the military equipment use policy that was in effect at the time, or if prior uses did not comply with the accompanying military equipment use policy, corrective action has been taken to remedy nonconforming uses and ensure future compliance.

  • Requirement (A): The Sheriff’s Department has not shown the military equipment is necessary. The new law AB 481 requires that “law enforcement must determine that military equipment is necessary because there is no reasonable alternative that can achieve the same objective of officer and civilian safety.” The Sheriffs department had not satisfied this category.

    • The Sheriff’s policy simply restated the legal requirement without providing any explanation for why Sacramento’s Sheriffs require the weapons. Simply restating the law is insufficient and does not comply with AB 481.

  • Requirement (B): The Sheriff’s Department has not shown the military equipment will safeguard the public’s welfare, civil rights, or civil liberties. The new law AB 481 requires that “the proposed military equipment use policy will safeguard the public’s welfare, safety, civil rights, and civil liberties.”

    • Sacramento residents and victims of police violence have repeatedly declared they feel less safe with the presence of heavily armed law enforcement.

    • Studies confirm that officer’s possession of military weapons have escalated situations rather than mitigated any harm, often resulting in serious preventable injuries most notably during the George Floyd protests of 2020; the department has not proven its policy complies with AB 481.

  • Requirement (C): The Sheriffs department has not shown the military equipment is cost-effective or that they have tried available alternatives. The new law AB 481 requires the police department’s equipment purchases to be “reasonably cost effective compared to available alternatives that can achieve the same objective of officer and civilian safety.”

    • As written, the Sheriff's did not include accurate estimations of the maintenance, replacement, and training for military equipment over multiple years; this policy did not comply with AB 481.

    • Furthermore, on April 27th, 2022 Board of Supervisors asked for an analysis of these weapons' necessity and cost effectiveness to be done and it was not. There are no documents attached to the item that would show otherwise.

  • Requirement (D): The Sheriff's Department has not shown that it has complied with its own military equipment policies in the past. The new law AB 481 requires the Sheriffs Department’s “prior military equipment use complied with the military equipment use policy that was in effect at the time, or if prior uses did not comply with the accompanying military equipment use policy, corrective action has been taken to remedy nonconforming uses and ensure future compliance.”

    • But the Department's prior uses violated federal law that prohibited police officers from shooting at people acting peacefully in a crowd, as was shown doing during the 2020 George Floyd protests. Rather than implementing corrective action to address these nonconforming uses, the Sheriff's Department denied their misuse and refused to detail any remedies it took to ensure future compliance. Therefore, the policy did not comply with AB 481.


An important note: AB 481 requires meaningful community engagement around policy development and feedback, which did not occur.

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