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Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Public hearing to be held on police military equipment policy for Citrus Heights


File photo. Officers with the Citrus Heights Police Department SWAT team conduct a raid of S&S Tire in 2015, with the assistance of an MRAP vehicle. // CH Sentinel

Sentinel staff report–
Residents will have an opportunity during a public hearing this Thursday to provide input on a proposal that defines what kind of military equipment can be used and acquired by the Citrus Heights Police Department.

A staff report to the City Council from Police Lt. Jason Baldwin says the passage of Assembly Bill 481 prompted the proposal, due to the bill’s requirement for a military equipment use policy to be adopted prior to a law enforcement agency “funding, acquiring, or using military equipment.”

See full proposed policy: click here.

The report says AB 481 broadly defines military equipment in a way that “does not necessarily indicate equipment that has been used by the military,” noting that such items include drones, rifles, armored vehicles, pepper balls, and some less-lethal shotguns and projectile launchers. The legislation was intended to ensure residents have an opportunity to comment on and are aware of their Police Department’s purchase and use of military-style equipment.

In Citrus Heights, the Police Department’s most high-profile military vehicle is an MRAP, or Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle, which many departments received at little to no cost as part of a military surplus program. Such vehicles are specified in the proposed policy as being allowed to be used in Citrus Heights, along with “tracked armored vehicles” and “weaponized aircraft, vessels, or vehicles of any kind.”

Battering rams, drones, tasers, water cannons, pepper spray, firearms of .50-caliber or greater, and other items are also listed as military equipment to potentially be used.

The staff report says approval of the military equipment use policy is necessary for the department to continue to use “vital equipment” it has already been utilizing.

“These tools have been tested in the field, and are used by LEAs to enhance citizen safety, officer safety,” Baldwin said in his report. “Loss of these items would jeopardize the welfare of citizens and peace officers within the CHPD”

The report says officers “have faced gun fire from suspects for prolonged incidents which required the use of armored/ballistic vehicles to protect the officers and community,” noting the equipment “allows for more time and opportunity to attempt to deescalate situations and provide for safer tactics to resolve life-threatening events in the safest way possible.”

The proposed policy also includes specific guidelines describing the approved use of such equipment, along with the cost, replacement cost, and training required. The policy also requires a report to be submitted annually and posted on the Police Department’s website listing each type of military equipment in the department’s inventory.

A public hearing regarding the proposed policy will be held on April 28 at City Hall, with the meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Participation will also be allowed via Zoom. Those wishing to submit comments in advance can email comments up to 250 words to cityclerk@citrusheights.net, or email the entire City Council directly at citycouncil@citrusheights.net.

Want to share your thoughts on this topic? The Sentinel welcomes letter to the editors or opinion columns for publication. To submit one online, click here.

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