Local Government Committee Passes Bill to Regulate Law Enforcement’s Acquisition of Military Equipment

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Gloria, Chiu Bill to Demilitarize State and Local Law Enforcement Clears First Major Hurdle, Advances in the Assembly

SACRAMENTO, CA – Legislation by California State Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco) that would better regulate law enforcement’s purchase and acquisition of military-grade equipment earned the approval of the Assembly’s Local Government Committee with a vote of six to three and will now advance to the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee.

The acquisition of military-style equipment by law enforcement agencies has contributed to a general sense of unrest in many communities – especially communities of color,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “By requiring a public forum to allow the public to participate in those discussions, this bill will improve the relationships police have with the community when law enforcement is seen as a public safety service rather than an occupying force.”

Our California streets are not war zones, and our citizens are not enemy combatants. Law enforcement in California are our partners in public safety. They are not military generals, and the weapons they carry should reflect that reality,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. “The Trump Administration reversed an Obama-era policy that restricted local law enforcement agencies from obtaining military grade weapons. We must pass this bill to give the public necessary oversight on when and why a local law enforcement agency would need to acquire military grade weapons.”

AB 3131, jointly authored by Gloria and Chiu, proposes a new, transparent public process in which law enforcement entities that wish to purchase, acquire, or seek funds for military equipment must submit public documents, participate in a public hearing, and receive majority approval from their local governing body or oversight board before the items can be acquired. Specifically, law enforcement agencies would need to draft and submit a “military equipment impact statement” and a “military equipment use policy” to their local governing body for review at a public hearing.

The military equipment impact statement is intended to describe each piece of military equipment as well as its intended use. The military equipment use policy would dictate the specific purpose the equipment is intended to achieve and its authorized uses. Both documents would need to be publicly released prior to a hearing and the local governing body must adopt the documents by ordinance before the department could carry out the purchase or acquisition.

AB 3131 comes after Federal Executive Order #13688, issued by President Obama, was rescinded by the Trump Administration. The order sought to better control the acquisition and deployment of surplus military equipment by local law enforcement who receive it under the U.S. Department of Defense’s 1033 program. The DOD’s 1033 program allows surplus military equipment to be transferred to municipal police departments for free.

If enacted, AB 3131 would go into effect on January 1, 2019. Law enforcement agencies that currently possess military-grade equipment, as defined in the bill, would need to have the approval process in place with their governing body by May 1, 2019.

AB 3131 is sponsored by the ACLU of California and Indivisible California. The bill is scheduled for consideration by the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee on April 24.