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Citrus Heights police answer questions about use of military equipment


File photo. Citrus Heights police, including an armored “MRAP,” are shown responding to a reported shooting on Crux Avenue on Sept. 26, 2022. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip—
Citrus Heights police outlined their inventory of military equipment and took questions from a handful of attendees who showed up to a public meeting held at City Hall Monday night.

During the meeting, police commanders Nichole Garing and Michael Wells fielded questions about the purpose and use of the equipment detailed in a 14-page annual report, required by Assembly Bill 481. About six members of the public attended the meeting.

As reported last year, police say 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.

Wells said most of the items deemed “military equipment” are used locally for training, and rarely deployed. The department has also returned some equipment that was not used, he said.

“The list is smaller this year than it was the previous year,” said the lieutenant. “We actually got rid of some of the items on there that we weren’t utilizing. We didn’t feel we needed anymore. We had a couple of robots that we had received through the military program that we weren’t utilizing.”

The department acquires some equipment through the military for a small transfer fee, Wells said.

Police still keep military equipment typically used in SWAT situations such as drones, distraction devices, chemical agents, and the firearms that launch those projectiles. The local department’s most high-profile military vehicle is an MRAP, or Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle, which many police departments received at little to no cost as part of a military surplus program.

Wells said there is a nationwide trend toward increasing amounts of firearms that police encounter and Citrus Heights is no exception. Non-serialized firearms known as “ghost guns” constructed from readily available parts are increasingly common, he said.

“The scary part is that people can make as many as they can out of their shop at the house,” Wells said. “I can’t think of more firepower, it just seems like there’s more of them.”

Although Citrus Heights police have military equipment, Wells said the tactics are far different than the military. Garing said that the police use of military equipment is “tailored to fit our community,” and each situation is unique.

Police have not received any complaints about their use of military equipment in Citrus Heights, according to Wells.

The Police Department’s full 14-page annual report on its military equipment can be viewed on the city’s website. (click here)

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