Antioch approves new rule for police using military-style equipment

Antioch has approved a new ordinance regulating how police acquire or purchase military equipment.

Under the rules, police will have to obtain the City Council’s approval before acquiring or buying anything considered military equipment under state guidelines.

The ordinance was adopted this week with no discussion on a 4-1-1 vote with Lori Ogorchock absent.

In his introduction of the ordinance, Capt. Anthony Morfield said the purpose of the policy is to provide guidelines for the approval, acquisition and reporting requirements of military equipment.

The new regulations stem from Assembly Bill 481, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Sept. 30, along with six other police reform laws. Under the law, authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, law enforcement agencies must establish policies and obtain approvals from their governing bodies for military equipment.

“AB-481 was enacted to increase transparency and accountability and oversight surrounding the use and acquisition of military equipment by state and local law enforcement,” Morefield said.

“Military equipment,” as defined in AB 481, however, does not necessarily refer to equipment the military uses. “Military equipment” includes such items as drones or robots, armored vehicles, rubber bullet launchers and diversionary devices such as flash bangs, according to the staff report.

The Antioch City Council first considered the police department’s use of military equipment in March of 2021, when it declared the city wouldn’t accept any more surplus military equipment. But the council agreed to let the department keep using the equipment it already has, including a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) light tactical vehicle, originally produced to help troops survive explosives set off in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new policy also requires the police department to prepare annual reports with lists of its military equipment, uses, costs and any complaints of such use.

Antioch currently has military surplus equipment that includes one MAXXPRO armored vehicle to aid in rescuing people and one command-and-control truck. It also has 25 drones for use in major collision investigation, missing person searches, crime scene documentation, SWAT and tactical work and natural disaster management and more.

The department also has military-style specialized firearms and ammunition, including 47 AR-15s, four commando short-barrel rifles, five bolt-action rifles and five UMP submachine guns, 15 projectile launch platforms, 75 plastic and foams projectiles, 110 hard plastic projectiles, two shotguns retrofitted for deploying gas, shotguns, four gas-launching canisters, 50 launch cartridges, 94 flashbang diversionary devices, nine flashbang devises, 40 smoke grenades and 115 smoke canisters.

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