Valley law enforcement agencies share concerns about military equipment policy deadline

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Drones that can be purchased by the public are now considered a piece of military equipment under Assembly Bill 481, which Governor Gavin Newsom signed in September of last year.

So are many other items, including armored vehicles, battering rams and firearms 50 calibers and over, except standard-issue shotguns.

Mobile command centers like the one used by the Kings County Sheriff's Office are also on the list.

"It's that type of equipment where we didn't go get and get out drones from the military, we bought them just like anybody else did or could," says Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson.

The new law requires law enforcement agencies receive approval from their governing boards to continue using those items or purchasing new ones, establish an ordinance through a public forum by April 30 and prepare an annual report.

"It feels repetitive -- I think we have done a good job at notifying our counsel of the equipment and use," says Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever. "Everything I have is authorized by our city council."

San Francisco City Attorney David Chui introduced the bill while still serving as an assemblyman. He says it was needed to prevent the militarization of local law enforcement agencies and re-establish public trust.

"All this bill is about is transparency so there is some accountability on how public dollars are used and continue building trust between law enforcement agencies and their communities," he said.

But Robinson says he's concerned about safety because the items must also be listed in detail on public documents that can be easily accessed online.

"It really goes toward officer safety and not giving too much info to those who do harm in our community who could do countermeasures against us," he said.

That Hanford City Council meeting will be taking place at 7 pm Tuesday.

While they have to begin the process before May 1, they have 180 days to complete it.
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