Escondido council authorizes use of military equipment

The suspect was armed with a pistol and a machete as he walked in front of the Escondido bank. Police called to the scene initially hung from the corner and launched an observation drone to assess the situation. When the man lowered his weapons, the officers went inside and arrested him unharmed.

A video of the November 2020 confrontation was shown to Escondido City Council recently to demonstrate how police use military equipment to carry out its mission.

Under a state law signed by Governor Gavin Newson last fall, Assembly Bill 481, municipal police departments must report on the use of military equipment each year and obtain authorization from relevant city councils to use the equipment.

Following a presentation by Escondido police chief Ed Varso and his staff, the council voted 5-0 last month to authorize the department to use military equipment.

The video of the confrontation with the armed suspect, about whom Varso said he was suffering from mental health problems, showed the department’s use of a number of military equipment as defined by the new state law.

Along with the drone, police used an armored personnel carrier to approach the suspects and then placed a military-style assault rifle and a projectile launcher launching non-lethal sponge.

“Should he decide to engage officers in a confrontation, we are prepared to take a less deadly option, but also be able to protect officers and the community at the same time,” Varso said.

Council members supported the department’s efforts to educate the public about the use of military equipment and satisfied, as Varso reported, that the department has not received complaints from the public about the use of such equipment dating back the last five years.

“You are not militarizing the Escondido Police Department or the city,” said Mayor Paul McNamara. “It’s just common sense what you’re looking for.”

Council member Mike Morasco said he supports anything that would keep officers and the public safe, but was concerned about the amount of staff time it took to develop the new state-mandated policy. Varso said it took hundreds of hours for staff from the Police Department and the city prosecutor’s office to draft the new policy and meet the requirements of IA 481.

“It’s a concern, so much time and effort, based on misinformation, poor information, misunderstanding, bad exposure to what this device is and what it does,” Morasco said. “Your record is pristine, it shows that the equipment was used prudently and wisely.”

The report to the council describes the equipment used by Escondido police designated as military equipment under the new state law, which includes drones, a robotic platform, incident control vehicles, armored personnel carriers, trespassing equipment, patrols and SWAT rifles. long flames. Beam acoustic equipment, 40 mm emitters and chemical agents / tear gas.

The report also specified items that the department does not possess, such as mine-resistant vehicles, Humvees, tracked armored vehicles, armed aircraft, ships or vehicles, firearms or ammunition of caliber 0.50 or larger, or a weapon fire designed to release explosive shells.

In his comments, Varso reiterated that the drones used by the department are commercially available to the public and are not armed. “They let us stand behind and use the distance to our advantage and safely manage a dangerous situation,” he said.

According to the report, the department has seven types of drones, with prices ranging from $ 400 to $ 35,000 each.

Similarly, the department robot, which costs $ 28,000, can be sent inside a building to provide video images to officers outside, and also has a microphone and speakers to communicate with a suspect, Varso said.

The department has a Bearcat armored personnel carrier, which is a Ford 550 fortified truck, Varso said, and could be used to approach potentially armed suspects while protecting the safety of officers. The vehicle holds 10 to 12 officers, costs $ 242,000 and has an estimated lifespan of 25 years.

The department’s breaking equipment includes explosives that can deactivate emergency hinges or locks.

Other devices include flashbang devices to mislead suspects and tear gas that could be used in a high-risk situation or crowd control in a riot, Varso said.

The department has a long-range acoustic device that can emit a high-frequency tone that is used to disperse a crowd. However, Varso said the department’s policy prohibits the use of such devices for crowd dispersal and instead uses the device as a public address system to communicate with a crowd.

Also on the list is a 40mm launcher that can release non-lethal sponge, Varso said.

The only deadly item on the list, Varso said, are AR-15 assault rifles issued to all patrol officers and SWAT.

“Our law enforcement officers are required to protect our community. “They have no one else to call,” said Varso. “They need to have the equipment to protect the community, to protect themselves and their fellow officers.”

The report noted that in 2021, officers used drones 120 times, incident command vehicle 10 times, personnel armored personnel carrier 26 times, patrol rifle and SWAT once, flashbangs twice and 40 mm launcher three times.

Captain Kevin Toth said some of the items were paid for with grant funds, while others were funded from the department budget.

The department should return to the council if it seeks to purchase new items not included in the original list, and should also return to the council each year for reauthorization to use its military equipment, Toth said. In addition, the department should hold a public meeting each year to discuss the types and uses of the military equipment it possesses.

To view the department’s policy and report on military equipment, visit https://www.police.escondido.org/Data/Sites/4/media/pdfs/DI1.55MilitaryEquipmentUsePolicy031722.pdf.

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Escondido council authorizes use of military equipment Source link Escondido council authorizes use of military equipment

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